Animal rights activists urged Russia's president Wednesday to reject a plan by Moscow authorities to send 26,000 stray dogs to a facility outside the city that critics say will be cramped, spread disease and mean certain death for many of the canines.
About 50 activists lined up outside the presidential administration building to submit signed petitions to President Dmitry Medvedev denouncing the move.
"We've come here today to ask him to protect Moscow's dogs," said Yelena Nadyozhkina, an activist with Russian group Save the Animals.
Though City Hall has shelved the plan for now, the activists want assurances that it will be abandoned once and for all.
Dog lovers, including a range of Russian celebrities, have been petitioning City Hall to abandon the plan since February.
Moscow's plan would have rounded up strays and sent them to a camp in the Yaroslavl region, about 250 kilometers (150 miles) northeast of the city. Its critics say the move would be deadly for the animals and create an atmosphere for the misappropriation of city funds.
"It's far enough from Moscow that we won't be able to go there, observe them or control how the animals are fed and taken care of," said Lyudmila Fokina, a volunteer at one of Moscow's animal shelters. "The animals will just die there. We won't know about it, and the money will continue to finance the facility."
Moscow city officials couldn't immediately be reached for comment.
Stray dogs roam the Russian capital, often bedding down in subway stations and even riding the trains. Some travel in packs and attack people.
Activists say city officials have been slow to respond to their concerns, despite protests and a petition with nearly 2,000 signatures of prominent artists and musicians against the plan.
"After half a year, they still haven't given us any response," Fokina said. "We want a written answer confirming that the dogs will not be sent anywhere."
The signed appeals also urged the city to allocate funds for setting more dog shelters in Moscow.