(Photo: USA TODAY Sports)
SOCHI, Russia (USA TODAY) - If you want to adopt a stray dog from Sochi, the first thing you should probably do is get on a plane to Sochi.
It can be done over the phone and e-mail, said Humane Society International director for companion animals and engagement Kelly O'Meara, but it will require significant cooperation from a local and several layers of logistics that would be much less complicated in person.
The good news, though, is that any American already in Sochi or planning on coming during the Olympic Games can bring home one of the now-famous pups relatively easily and inexpensively in most cases.
SHELTER: For now, there is a home for some
The prevalence of stray dogs - and the local organizing committee's decision to hire a pest control company to kill thousands of them - was a predominant story line in the lead-up to the Olympics. Since then, a temporary shelter backed by a Russian billionaire has opened up just outside of town, and the attention devoted to the issue has inspired many Americans to ask about how they can adopt one of the dogs that survived.
Typically, O'Meara said, the Humane Society encourages Americans to adopt pets domestically, since there are many who need homes. But with Sochi in the spotlight, HSI has posted a point-by-point guide on its Web page detailing how to bring one home from Russia.
"I think it's a situation where everyone's hearing about the very sad and terrible means of killing these dogs and people are feeling a bit helpless in what they can do," O'Meara said in a phone interview Monday. "This is a life-or-death situation for many of them that are being seen in and around Sochi, and that's why people are sort of jumping in and asking how they can help."
This shelter houses a number of stray dogs removed from the Olympic areas.(Photo: Kevin Liles, USA TODAY Sports)
The first step to bringing home a living, breathing, barking memento from the Olympics would be to make contact with one of the three shelter operators (e-mails and phone numbers are listed on www.hsi.org). Then once you pick out a dog to take home (it must be at least eight weeks old), the next stop should be a local veterinarian (there are five listed on the Web site) to get documentation that the dog has been vaccinated and is relatively healthy.
But that should take place within 10 days of departure, O'Meara said.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, the dog will be subject to inspection at the point of entry into the United States and could be denied or subject to an examination at the owner's expense if the dog appears to be ill or shows evidence of an infectious disease that could be transmitted to humans.
The veterinarian should be able to help the new owner find a place to purchase a new, airline-approved pet kennel for transport.
The next important task is calling your airline, since they all have different policies about flying with pets.
"Some allow you to take a dog on board with you as excess baggage in cargo and you'll pay somewhere between $125 and $200," O'Meara said. "If it's a small puppy you could have it even as a carry-on and in that same price range. If you have an airline that won't allow you to transport the dogs you have the option to go with another airline or send it separately to another airline, and that can be quite expensive if it's a regular sized dog and not a puppy. That could be up to $2,000."
Once the logistics are worked out with the airline, it should be relatively easy to get home - assuming the dog can handle a 10-hour flight from Moscow to the East Coast.
"Most dogs are OK with it, it really just depends on the dog," O'Meara said. "It's similar to people. Some travel very well and some have more of a difficult time and are very anxious on flights but often people fly with their dogs from around the world to the U.S., so your main concern should be the airline and ensuring the cargo space is properly ventilated and the pilot is aware there's a dog on board and they're checking that in advance to make sure everything is in place for the dog to be as comfortable as possible during flight."