MOSCOW - Russia's Olympic host city of Sochi ran into controversy last Thursday after the city authorities announced a plan to exterminate more than 2,000 stray cats and dogs ahead of the Games next year.
In a tender posted online this month, the Black Sea resort city that is hosting Winter Olympic Games in February 2014 asked companies to bid for a contract to "dispose" of 2,028 stray cats and dogs by the end of this year.
The city is overrun with packs of stray animals that have sometimes attacked children, a spokesman for the Sochi city authorities told AFP.
The authorities asked for bidders to organise squads that would operate between 5 AM and 8 AM and offered to pay 1.7 million rubles ($57,000) for their services.
Local activists staged a protest at the weekend calling for the animals to be sterilized or put into a shelter.
"When you translate bureaucratic language to human language, the term 'disposal' means 'murder,' wrote the Trud newspaper, slamming the "slaughterhouse" plan.
The tender has now fallen through as no bids were made, said the city spokesman.
"(The tender) led to a lot of criticism, but we are not cruel, we are trying to solve this problem," he said.
"We have packs of animals in the city, sometimes they attack children. Often these animals are sick, they carry disease."
The city is now planning to build an animal shelter, the first in the city, and a new tender will focus on sterilization rather than "disposing" of strays, he said.
Over 60 percent of Russians keep pets, according to a 2011 poll, with cats and dogs overwhelmingly popular but rarely neutered by owners.
Russia is pulling out all the stops to host the 2014 Winter Games in a $50 billion national prestige project to redevelop and showcase Sochi.
Image: Grigory Gusev / via Flickr