Nataliya Vasilyeva

City authorities will discuss on Tuesday, March 1, 2011 a proposal to round up Moscow's estimated 26,000 stray dogs and move them to a camp in the Yaroslavl region about 250 kilometers (150 miles) to the northeast.

Scroungy and street smart, Moscow's 26,000 stray dogs roam the Russian capital, bedding down in subway stations and even learning to ride the trains. But some are aggressive, traveling in packs and attacking people. Now authorities want to round the strays up and send them to an isolation facility outside the city – a plan that has appalled dog lovers and animal rights activists.

Prominent actors and musicians have petitioned City Hall to abandon the idea. Speaking at news conference on Monday, actor Yevgeny Mironov compared the planned facility to a "concentration camp."

Shipping the animals to a camp in the Yaroslavl region, 150 miles (250 kilometers) to the northeast, will only promote disease, force the dogs into inhumane conditions and, ultimately, won't solve the problem, activists said. Artyom Zverev, a veterinarian with the animal rights charity "Bim", warned the facility could become a breeding ground for disease. In order to ship the dogs out of the city's borders the animals need to be quarantined for a month, and the city has no facilities or staff to do that. One ill dog is enough to endanger the whole group, he said.

"If there is an outbreak of a disease, animals will be dying slowly and painfully," Zverev said. He also cited examples of similar deportations in other cities where dogs from outlying regions moved into the city, filling in the empty ecological niche. ...

Deputy Mayor Viktor Biryukov met with two film actors last week and promised to review the deportation plan at a meeting Tuesday, activists said, but they are still wary of promises. "We've heard these promises before so we still have concerns that they will not follow through this time," said Natalya Yunitsyna, head of a charity called "The Hope Bringers". ...