The Yesenin Museum of Moscow is leading a sea change in social attitudes toward homeless animals. Sergei Yesenin’s verse celebrated ‘our smaller siblings’, and the poet’s own personal treatment of animals reflected that. The Yesenin Museum is carrying on his legacy of treating animals as beings deserving of respect and compassion, with multiple initiatives, aimed at increasing awareness of shelter dogs’ and cats’ availability for adoption, directly facilitating adoption, and small-group education regarding attitudes toward and treatment of animals.
Most Russians get their dogs from pet stores and breeders rather than from animal shelters. Many dogs are abandoned by their owners when the responsibility of pet ownership outweighs the novelty. Russia did not have anything resembling a humane society or shelter network during the Soviet era, so the tradition of ‘getting a puppy from the pound’ is not as widespread as could be hoped for. Although attitudes are slowly changing, and Moscow in particular is developing a network of volunteers, shelters, and animal welfare organizations, shelter adoptions are not yet a part of the culture. Dogs can spend months with volunteers or in no-kill shelters before finding a permanent home, while many homeless strays continue to wander the streets. It is in finding permanent homes for strays that the Yesenin Museum focuses its outreach and publicity efforts.
The Museum’s long-term project, ‘Come, Jim, give me your paw for luck’, began in October 2013, with an event in Gorky Park. The event included a presentation on the project’s main ideas and an exhibition of animals seeking adoption. Attendees who took home a pet received a set of gifts from the museum – ‘Our Smaller Siblings’, a collection of poetry published specifically for the event, a souvenir ‘Junior Sibling’s Passport’, as well as other souvenirs from the project.
Going forward, the project comprises Russian and international exhibitions, family-oriented events, workshops and interactive classes. Our last undertaking was a series of weekend exhibitions and interactive classes in Moscow’s public parks, as part of the ‘Best City on Earth’ park festival. The aim of all the activities and events within the project is to cultivate humane and responsible attitudes toward animals, in accordance with Sergei Yesenin’s poetic words.
Yesenin’s poetry is one of the major avenues for educating Russian youth about humane treatment of animals. The Yesenin Museum’s animal welfare initiatives are a way to extend his poetry into the world in a way that makes a difference in the lives of both people and animals
The ‘Junior Siblings’ Passport’ has been carried over as a feature of the Museum’s website, wherein the ‘passport data’ of shelter animals is presented in a way that allows visitors to become acquainted with and adopt them through the website.
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