Olympics volunteers sit near two stray dogs outside the Gorki media center in Krasnaya Polyana near Sochi, Russia, Jan. 30, 2014.

Olympics volunteers sit near two stray dogs outside the Gorki media center in Krasnaya Polyana near Sochi, Russia, Jan. 30, 2014.

Reuters

Oleg Deripaska’s gesture could help save hundreds of dogs that are in danger of being rounded up and destroyed as the host city on the Black Sea tries to clear them off the streets.

It could also help keep Deripaska in Putin’s good books after speculation over the dogs’ fate threatened to undermine the Russian president’s hopes of using the Games to portray Russia as a tolerant, modern state.

“You don’t see what’s going on here [in Sochi]?” Sonya Turpyetkina, a veterinarian, said of the treatment of the many dogs that roam free. “I keep seeing poisoned bait. This is repulsive, they are dying in horrible pain.”

She is a volunteer at the shelter funded by Deripaska at Baranovka near Sochi. As she spoke to Reuters at the shelter, he was visiting the site, showing a group of people around.

The shelter houses only about 40 dogs in basic pens, but city officials say such protection offers the animals a chance of finding a permanent owner and home.

A Sochi city official said no healthy dogs were being killed in the city even though a local company says it has a contract to round them up, and the International Olympic Committee also has said only sick and dying dogs are being destroyed.

But animal rights activists have launched a campaign to save the dogs, which has attracted negative publicity to Sochi and appears to have prompted Deripaska to step in.

He has been quoted as saying he has loved dogs since he was a boy. But his act is far from his first that could be beneficial to the Games, which he says he believes can turn Sochi into a thriving modern resort.

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