Russian officials have been scrambling to prepare the city of Sochi for the 2014 Winter Olympics – and part of their plan is to round up and kill hundreds of stray dogs. In response to the lethal campaign that has been in effect since October, billionaire Olga Melnikova is spearheading an effort to save the animals.

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The Russian government maintains that the extermination of the city’s dogs will help make the Olympics safer for tourists and athletes. Experts believe that officials have killed about 300 dogs a month for the cost of $24-$30 each since they began their cull. Olga Melnikova, a Russian billionaire who is responsible for constructing Sochi’s airport, main road, seaport, and Olympic Village, has donated $15,000 to establish a shelter and a further $50,000 to keep it functioning for a year. This week, Melnikova and her associates were told they have until Thursday to save as many dogs as they can find.

A dog rescue golf cart is now canvassing the Olympic Village, picking up strays and transporting them to the shelter named “PovoDog”. Volunteers are currently caring for 80 animals with more expected to arrive. Animal rights activists criticize the government for their lack of spay and neuter programs advocating for responsible ownership. Some of the homeless animals are pets who were separated from or abandoned by their owners during the massive construction leading up to the games. As the opening ceremonies near, volunteers are racing to find as many dogs as they can before they become targets for the pest control service.

Via Forbes and The New York Times

Images via Wikicommons user Andrey