Always full of drama

Friday, 2 December 2011

A Nation of Animal Lovers

It seems to me that Ukraine gets a bad press when it comes to animal welfare and whilst undoubtedly there is an excessive amount of stray cats and dogs on the streets and that some of them will be abused, the majority of Ukrainians I have seen, care a lot about animals, both pets and feral.

When I first came here, I was struck not be the sheer number of feral cats there were but by the fact that a very high proportion of them seemed well fed and healthy. After a while, I began to notice that everywhere that the cats would congregate, there were little trays of left over food and water. One July morning whilst on our endless search for the perfect flat, Tania and I sat down in one of the suburbs to have a drink before continuing our Odyssey. There were a few stray cats around, not particularly friendly but not nervous either. Eventually an old Babushka arrived with a veritable sack full of food and systematically started dividing it into small plastic cartons and putting it down for the cats. More arrived from all over, adults, kittens, all, for the most part healthy. The Babushka spent about 25 minutes making sure the cats were fed before wandering over to a point about 25m away where three stray dogs were waiting, looking simultaneously jealous and expectant. The Babushka brought out some left overs for the dogs too, stuff more suitable for the canine genus such as bones and junks of meat. Tania and I watched this little show for about 45 minutes. It was obviously a daily occurrence yet the Babushka wanted nothing from the animals, she neither expected or wanted any friendship from them, she was just making sure that these animals had enough food to survive. Dont think that this is an isolated incident, either, it happens in virtually every street in the city.

Another pointer towards Ukrainians love of animals is the number of pets and pet stores there are. Every morning I look out of our kitchen window I see a parade of dogs walking their owners. I am not talking about the latest nouveau rich accessory poodle that you see on the streets of central Odessa, I am talking everything from pedigree Labradors to nutty mongrels, all well looked after and obviously loved. As the dogs parade past, the local pet cats all sit half a meter from a dogs leads length away with an expression of pure scorn. Everywhere you go in Odessa there are well stock pet stores with knowledgeable staff, hell there are even pet pharmacies.

Beautiful, healthy and homeless. 

So when I hear or read about animal cruelty in Ukraine, I think about the UK and other western countries, where if an animal is not owned it is euthanized to use that pretentious, politically correct term that simply means killed. So now tell me whose animals are better off?