A shadowy group of Russian canine-killing vigilantes planned a major cull of stray dogs in Moscow on Friday evening, although it is not currently known if or how many animals were poisoned to death.
ABC news reported the the group, who call themselves 'dog hunters,' was using the Internet to organize a massive cull of strays in the capital, vowing to "clean the city of the fanged pests."
Organizers instructed Muscovites interested in participating in the killing to meet at a metro station north of the city, from where they planned on spreading out and laying meat poisoned with deadly drugs where stray dogs are known to live.
According to RIA Novosti, police were preparing to "take necessary preventive measures... designed to prevent cruelty to animals."
There are an estimated 30,000 to 50,000 stray dogs in Moscow, a city of 11.5 million people. Alexander Tkachev-Kuzmin, chairman of the Russian Veterinarian Association, told the Moscow News that another 15,000 are housed in large municipal shelters.
More than 1,000 dogs, including pets, rescue, seeing eye and therapy dogs, were killed last year in the city. Non-strays sometimes eat the poisoned or drugged meat meant for strays, and once again dog owners are on high alert as the 'dog hunters' have announced their latest plans.
More than 400 Russians have been killed by stray dogs in the years 2000-2010. More than 13,000 people are bitten each year in Moscow alone.
The 'dog hunters' use the Internet to share and compare stories and favorite killing tactics. Members of the group deny that they kill dogs for sport and claim only to be doing what city officials should but cannot or will not do.
They even published a manifesto in which they call themselves "fighters of aggressive wild dogs" and "bestiality" who have "teamed up to give a decisive rebuff to the bastards who consider a street mutt more important than life and health." Among the group's listed enemies are "raving animal rights activists." They do, it seems, have their own code of ethics: "We do not destroy cats. We do not destroy the master's animals. We do not use violence against opponents. We do not use fishing hooks, glass or any poisons."
Many Muscovites support the actions of the 'dog hunters,' but many also strongly oppose them. Last October, hundreds of people turned out at a protest against the group.
"People who kill their fellow creatures, they can't call themselves human beings," the famous actor Leonid Yarmolnik told the crowd, adding that 'dog hunters' were a reflection of the moral decline of Russian society.