The Yerevan municipal budget for 2003 included
a 20 million dram (about $35,000) allotment for
exterminating street dogs.
The methodology is simple. A three-member hunting
squad goes into the streets at night, shoots the
dogs, and cuts off the tails as proof of having
done their jobs.
As the year ends, only about one-third of the
money has been paid out. Meanwhile the Yerevan
Emergency Hospital has reported 59 dog bites (most
requiring stitches), as opposed to 23 last year.
And that's just in one district of the city.
"Those who applied to us were people only
from our district, but the situation is the same
in other big hospitals of Yerevan," says
surgeon Marels Muradyan.
The number of mongrels appears to be growing
faster than the city's ability to control it or
to protect residents from the danger of yards
full of dogs.
Half joking, half serious, Muradyan says it's
time to warn people to have a rock or a stick
when walking about at night.
With no alternative means presently available,
the gruesome means of eliminating "man's
best friend", while barbaric and unsophisticated,
is also proving to be inefficient in the capital.
For the past several years, the contract for
dog killing has gone to a company called Dami-Arg.
The extermination company is essentially three
hunters who work from about midnight till about
5 a.m. tracking dogs and shooting them. They make
their hunts based on complaints called in from
anywhere in the city.
Unlike other passersby, when the Dami-Arg hunters
appear in the neighborhood dogs become terrified.
"Seems like they can already smell us and
in many cases when we enter the district, they
disappear at once," says hunter Ashot Ghazaryan.
According to Ghazaryan there have been years
when the three of them together have shot 9,000
dogs. He's been working at Dami-Arg for four years,
but has been a professional hunter since he was
young. He does not consider killing dogs a hunting
but confesses that it's rather hard to find those
"I myself love dogs," he says. "There
was a time when I had nine dogs. But street dogs
have a hunter's instinct and are very shrewd,
besides the more there are the more aggressive
they become, as a pack instinct takes over."
The work of Dami-Arg hunters is on contract basis.
For each killed dog the company gets 2,400 drams
(about $4), 170 drams (30 cents) of which goes
to the hunter. As a proof, the hunter shows the
dog tails and the corpse is thrown into Nubarashen's
dump. The average prey for each hunter is about
200 dogs per month.
So far, the municipality has paid out seven million
drams (about $12,500) out of the alloted sum.
"This work is based on enthusiasm,"
says Ghazaryan. "It's already been several
months that we haven't received salary, but we
are fulfilling our responsibility."
It is not unusual for sleeping citizens to be
awakened by the yelp of a wounded dog or gunfire.
And being a dog exterminator is not a profession
that endears itself to the citizenry. The hunters
assure that they are only killing mad, sick or
"My conscience is clear, since I know I'm
doing good for people," says 49-year old
Ghazaryan. "Who wants a mad dog to bite his
But Eduard Yavruyan, head of the Armenian Union
for Animal Protection, says the city's $35,000
could have bought a more civilized and effective
solution to the problem.
"They're creating incubators in civilized
countries, gathering the street animals and disinfecting
them," he says. "That requires two or
three employees. Disinfection is not an expensive
thing and dogs can be fed with leftovers."
In the mid-90s, then mayor of Yerevan Vano Siradeghyan
met animal-rights activist, actress Brigitte Bardot
and as a result an organization called "Protect
Wandering Animals" was established.
"For that purpose former cattle sheds in
Ararat region were given, and we were called as
specialists to express our opinion, but that's
as far as it got," says Yavruyan.