Skinners should be in prison, or how to stop a series of sadistic animal killings in Russia?

The story of the Khabarovsk knackers, who took animals from shelters and, according to the announcements “I will give them to good hands”, and then killed them with special sadism, shocked the whole world. Petitions and appeals to the president with demands to punish the perpetrators come even from Europe. Cut and hung cats and dogs, photos of which were posted on the Internet – such cruelty is incomprehensible to a mentally healthy person. It is characteristic that, according to the investigation, the cruelty in this story can be traced not only to animals, but also to people. One of the girls called in her correspondence to burn monks in temples, and the second was interested in how many years you can get for killing your own mother.

Our experts – Irina Novozhilova, President of the VITA Animal Rights Center, Yury Koretskikh, an activist of the Alliance of Animal Defenders, and Stalina Gurevich, a lawyer, tell about the urgent need to change the legal field, as well as the reasons for the increased crimes against our smaller brothers.

Is society in Russia ready to tighten Article 245 of the Criminal Code?

Article 245 of the Criminal Code alone cannot determine the legal framework of the country, if only because this article does not concern areas with systemic cruelty at all (animal husbandry, fur farming, experiments, entertainment). Russia needs full-fledged legislation in the field of animal rights protection, that is, a federal law that will cover all areas of human use of animals.

The existing article of the Criminal Code, as a rule, applies only to companion animals (dogs and cats), the concept of cruelty in it is interpreted in it very narrowly.

Literally: “Cruel treatment of animals, resulting in their death or injury, if this act is committed out of hooligan motives, or out of mercenary motives, or using sadistic methods, or in the presence of minors.”

That is, firstly, the emphasis is on the fact that there should be injuries on animals. But this does not take into account situations when cats are walled up in basements where they do not have access to water and food, but there are no signs of injuries on them, and death has not yet followed.

In this case, we, as an animal protection organization, take the wording from the commentary to this article by V.M. Lebedev, Chairman of the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation. that “it is also cruelty to deprive animals of food and water …”. But the legal status of “comments” is not great – they may or may not be heeded.

Secondly, the classification of the crime, based on this text, is based on motivation, and none of the sadists admit that they committed the crime out of mercenary or sadistic motives.   

We had “curious” situations when a breeder in Schelkovo walled up dogs, sealed their mouths with adhesive tape, and they died painfully, because she did not sell this “product” on time. I filed a complaint with the police, but I received a refusal: there is no motivation! It turns out that this person wrote in the explanation that she cared about the well-being of her neighbors – she saved them from the smell and flies in the stairwell!

When the cats were walled up in the basement on Verkhnyaya Maslovka, where they sat for two weeks without water and food, the investigators asked if there were any injuries on the animals. The very fact that living beings die a painful death did not interest them.

God forbid such law enforcement officers would be asked to evaluate the events in besieged Leningrad …

Our society was initially ready for a more severe punishment for knackers, and it is not clear to me what the author of Article 245 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation was guided by when he defined it in the category of minor severity. In addition, President Vladimir Putin himself recently spoke in favor of tightening this article. In my opinion, the translation of crimes under Art. 245 in the category of serious, the punishment for which provides for up to 10 years in prison.

Restrictions such as “hooligan or selfish motives, sadistic methods, and committing a crime in the presence of young children” are also incorrect, because cruelty to animals cannot be justified by anything, except perhaps self-defense.

And the third point. It is necessary to reduce the age of criminal responsibility for this crime to 14 years. This is an adequate period, given the increase in juvenile delinquency.

Were there precedents when it was possible to prove the guilt of a sadist in court and achieve a real term or at least a large fine?

Irina: There were thousands of cases, only a few were punished. I can say that the investigation begins when the events become known to the media.

– “Ketamine” cases. In 2003, the newly created power structure of the State Drug Control Service (FSKN) began repressions against veterinarians. doctors, outlawing ketamine, a drug for anesthesia of animals, which has no analogues in Russia. There was a conflict of law, and vet. doctors found themselves between two articles of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation: the 245th – if cut on the living, without anesthesia, and the 228th part 4

– “Sale of drugs” – if you carry out operations under anesthesia. Veterinary surgery just stopped, thousands of animals were left without help. For the period 2003-2004. 26 criminal cases were initiated. With the help of the public, we have ensured that the veterinarians involved under Article 228 for “selling” (from 7-15 years old) do not go to jail. Only thanks to the wide public resonance they were all given suspended sentences.

 – The murder of a kitten, Izmailovo, 2005. A citizen who threw an animal of her neighbors in a communal apartment out the window received a fine of seven minimum wages.

– Case of Oleg Pykhtin, 2008. The inadequate owner of the fighting dog kept the whole yard in fear at Planernaya, 12. Another tenant of the house, Oleg, is a real Robin Hood, a poor guy, fought for animals, got into fights, he had 11 rescued dogs in his apartment. And somehow he went for a walk with 4 dogs, and the owner of a fighting dog met him, and she was without a muzzle and a leash. A fight ensued, Pykhtin was afraid for his dogs. The police opened a case against Oleg, not against the owner. We collected statements from the owners of injured animals and wrote a statement to the prosecutor’s office on behalf of the organization.

One of the most high-profile cases in which the Alliance of Animal Defenders participated was the fight against the shelter management company BANO Eco, under whose leadership animals suffered and died massively in shelters. Thanks to two days of confrontation at the end of April, we managed to close the shelter in Veshnyaki, after which several criminal cases were opened against the head of the company.

In general, stories of cruelty to animals in our country occur daily. We all remember the egregious incident with the polar bear, when the polar explorers tore her throat with a firecracker. A little earlier, other Russians, for the sake of entertainment, ran over a brown bear 8 times in an SUV. In the summer there was a trial of a knacker who, in broad daylight, in front of people, slaughtered a yard dog. Just the other day, my friend Eldar Helper brought a dog from Ufa, who had been raped by his owner for several years.

And these are the most striking cases, but I read reports on the ordinary use of violence against animals almost every day. And you know what all these stories have in common? None of the criminals went to jail! The most severe punishment is corrective labor. That is why, in my opinion, cruelty flourishes in our country.

Why is this the case in Russia? Does this speak of the degradation of society or the impunity of sadists? In almost all stories, it can be traced that people who are cruel to animals will not spare a person.

And there is. There are statistics that point to a direct correlation.

As for belonging specifically to the country, I want to note that the problem of cruelty is planetary. Some people fall lower and lower, the other part develops in step with ethical progress. In Russia, polarization is very noticeable.

In 1990-2000, a generation of nihilism was born, which in the world of psychiatrists received the conditional name “tin”, as psychologist Mark Sandomiersky says. People plunged into disbelief – old ideals were destroyed, a lot of lies were revealed, unbridled cruelty poured from the blue screens without any censorship, condemnation and morality at the end. There is a concept of addiction to cruelty, when the moral bar is lowered in society – this is what psychiatrist Sergei Enikolopov, who works with maniacs, says in an interview for our film. So now we are reaping the benefits. Therefore, the crimes committed by teenagers, including in relation to animals, occur with an emphasis on unprecedented cruelty.

Until 2008, VITA, as the only officially registered organization for animal rights in the country, controlled the entire situation with cruelty to animals in Russia. Streams of complaints from different cities came to us endlessly, applications were regularly sent to various police departments. I personally drove through them every day. And then investigations were conducted, although there were replies. And since 2008, the prosecutor’s office and the police stopped responding: you complain to a higher authority – and again silence.

I know that “Vita” has a lot of protracted criminal cases?

Three major investigations that thundered throughout the country: investigation using a hidden camera of the facts of beating animals in the circus “On the Fontanka” (2012), detention with operatives of a train with an illegally transported lion cub beaten by circus performers (2014), keeping killer whales in tanks at VDNKh (year 2014).

After these investigations, Vita was subjected to a dirty attack from the yellow media, the whole arsenal of non-legal methods was used, including “defamatory” articles, email hacks, phishing, etc. None of the criminals was held accountable for their deeds, and VITA turned out to be in complete censorship. Therefore, the reasons for the escalation of cruelty to animals in the country are quite obvious to us. After all, if the state does not have a basic law for the protection of animals, then a powerful public organization takes on the function of controlling cruelty, which conducted investigations from morning to night, attracted famous people (200 “stars” were involved in VITA projects), released from 500 to 700 TV spots per year, forming an ethical attitude towards animals in society. When this activity is also blocked, it should not be surprising that instead of animal advocates on the central channels today, well-known “dog hunters” or trainers sit as experts in the animal protection environment, and social networks are full of videos similar to Khabarovsk knackers. By the way, the VITA group on VKontakte was blocked for “cruel content” – a poster “How fur is mined.” There are no words, “the horses are drunk, the lads are harnessed.”

How to change the consumer attitude towards animals in society, in particular among children?

It is necessary to introduce in schools such a subject as bioethics, which would teach children to move away from the utilitarian perception of animals. Universities already have such experience, but so far, unfortunately, on an optional basis. But, of course, it is necessary to form ethical consciousness at an earlier age. After all, even an associate of Tolstoy, the author of the first Primer in Russia, the teacher Gorbunov-Posadov, said that for the sake of boredom, giving children the opportunity to squeeze animals is a monstrous crime. And look what’s happening today. Everywhere, in all major shopping centers, “petting” zoos are opening, offering hundreds of visitors a day to squeeze unfortunate animals in cages! These establishments are absolutely illegal according to all existing sanitary and veterinary standards. Even from the point of view of common sense and the interests of people, because these livestock facilities are located next to the catering system. Our teachers, who taught the bioethics course, are also shocked. After all, the main essence of the course is “animals are not toys”, and the most popular network of petting zoos today is called “Animals as toys”.

On the basement floors of the shopping center, exotariums, oceanariums are opened, live penguins sit on papier-mâché structures. People are calling and crying that cheetahs have been brought to their mall! Just imagine, living creatures are sitting behind glass showcases, without natural light, they breathe artificial air, they cannot move, because the space is too limited, and there is constant noise around, a lot of people. Animals gradually go crazy from such inappropriate conditions, get sick and die, and they are replaced with new fun for the sake of it.

I want to say: “Those in power, are you completely crazy? You may be shown cards, as children at preschool age – “living matter” and “non-living matter.”  

The New Year is coming soon, and it’s scary to imagine who will be put on the streets again for fun! 

It turns out that the lack of legislation in the field of animal protection is lobbying for the interests of the animal entertainment industry?

Of course, there is confirmation of this. When, for the first time in the history of our country, the Animal Protection Bill was considered in the late 90s, one of the authors of which was Tatyana Nikolaevna Pavlova, the ideologist of the Russian movement for animal rights, it was opposed by the governors of two regions associated with fur trade – Murmansk and Arkhangelsk, Biological Faculty Moscow State University, which was afraid that it would be limited in experiments, and dog breeders, who were afraid of introducing control over animal breeding in the country.

We are 200 years behind civilized countries: the first law protecting animals was issued in 1822 in England. How far can you pull!? I love to quote Gandhi, who said that society has two paths. The first is the path of a natural gradual change in people’s consciousness, it is very long. The second path that the West is following is the punitive path of legislation. But Russia has so far found itself on neither one nor the other path. 

There is a direct correlation between cruelty to animals and people, as evidenced by research conducted in the USSR back in 1975. Then the Ministry of Internal Affairs, psychologists, teachers, psychiatrists and doctors united to create the work “The Phenomenology of Cruelty”. The study was led by Professor of the Institute of Psychiatry Ksenia Semenova. Factors such as the asociality of families, the involvement of people in various cruel spheres, and negative childhood experiences were studied. A map of cruelty was also drawn up. For example, in the Tver region in those years there was a series of cruel crimes of teenagers, and later it turned out that they were attracted to slaughter calves.

The article also raised questions about systemic violence. Especially when a photo of student girls giggling over a rabbit that woke up after anesthesia and saw that its peritoneum had been torn up went around various instances.

In those years, society tried to form a condemnation of cruelty, no matter to whom – an animal or a person.


Some causes of sadism towards animals in Russia

1. The absence of a law regulating the rights of animals in all areas, the impunity of criminals and sadists, the doghanter lobby (including power structures). The reason for the latter is simple – it is profitable for local officials to pay knackers, “cleansing” the city from stray animals is an endless “feeding trough”, and no one cares about the methods of killing, as well as the fact that there are no fewer stray animals. In other words, extermination does not solve the problem, but only exacerbates it.

2. Ignoring the problem of cruelty to animals on the part of the institutions of society, education and psychiatry.

3. Lack of mechanisms and norms that control the activities of breeders (those who breed dogs and cats for sale). Uncontrolled breeding leads to an increase in the number of stray animals, a utilitarian attitude towards living beings. Society, including children, treats dogs and cats like fashion toys. Today, many are willing to pay round sums for a thoroughbred dog, and few people think of “adopting” a mongrel from a shelter. 

4. Virtually complete impunity for all those who committed violence against animals. The ever-increasing number of unsolved cases breeds public apathy. A million views were scored by the video “Vita” with the beating of animals in the circus. There was a flurry of letters and calls, everyone was interested in questions whether they would conduct an investigation, whether the perpetrators would be punished. And what now? Silence. And there are many such examples.

5. Utilitarian attitude to animals, which is brought up from childhood: petting zoos, dolphinariums, wild animals that can be “ordered” for a holiday. The child is sure that a living being in a cage is in the order of things. 

6. Lack of a regulatory framework that would regulate the responsibility of the owners of companion animals (within the framework of the law on the protection of animals). It is necessary to introduce the sterilization of animals recommended by law as one of the tools to combat the uncontrolled number of stray animals. All over the world there is an economic lever: if you allow offspring, pay the tax. In England, for example, all pets are microchipped and accounted for. When the dog reaches puberty, you will be called from the relevant authorities and demanded either to sterilize the animal or pay a tax. This is done so that puppies and kittens do not turn out to be unnecessary owners on the street.   


“The modern judicial system in Russia has long been ready for tougher punishment in the field of animal rights protection, as well as our society itself. This need is long overdue, since these crimes are socially dangerous. The increased social danger of these crimes in the deliberate infliction of harm to a living being. The purpose of any punishment is to prevent crimes of greater social danger, that is, in the context of Art. 245 of the Criminal Code, crimes against people. It turns out that the existing rules of law do not meet the requirements of the law and the principles of legal proceedings, since the ultimate goal of the court is to restore justice and correct the convict.”

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