updated 08/25/2015 AT 8:16 PM ET
•originally published 02/06/2014 AT 5:15 PM ET
It’s not just the journalists who are having a hard time of it in Sochi, Russia.
The country’s government has authorized a pest removal company to rid the city of hundreds of stray dogs before Friday’s Olympic opening ceremony, believing them to be too dangerous to be left roaming around. To combat the move, which has been met with outrage from animal lovers, Russian billionaire Oleg V. Deripaska has funded a rescue effort in conjunction with his charity organization Volnoe Delo.
We were told, ‘Either you take all the dogs from the Olympic Village or we will shoot them,’” Olga Melnikova, who is coordinating the rescue effort, told The New York Times.
A rescue cart is now making its way around the Olympic Village, bringing the stray animals to a makeshift shelter called PovoDog, a play on the Russian word “povodok” (leash). About 80 animals are being held there currently, with many locals believing them to be abandoned pets or the offspring of abandoned pets. Since their eradication began in October, an estimated 300 dogs have been killed every month from a chemical injection that causes them to suffocate.
Addressing the issue, Mark Adams, a spokesman for the International Olympic Committee, told reporters only that “It would be absolutely wrong to say that any healthy dog will be destroyed.” In the meantime, shelter workers hope the dogs in their care will find forever homes with the fans attending the Olympic games.