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Strict Drug Law Puts Vets in Jam

Published: April 18, 2012 (Issue # 1704)



  • Alexander Shpak faces 8 1/2 years in jail for selling ketamine to an agent.
    Photo: VKONTAKTE.RU

MOSCOW After eight years offighting astrict law that virtually bans ananesthetic essential fortheir work, Russias veterinarians say they have nearly reached theend oftheir tether.

Ketamine has long been used foroperating onanimals throughout theworld, but when it came invogue as aparty drug inthe late 1990s, Russias response was toban thesubstance entirely in2003. Outcry among vets ensued, andit was reinstated forveterinary use in2004, but under such strict conditions that it is almost impossible toobtain.

It was technically legalized but inreality rejected. Inthe last eight years, only 5 percent ofvets have obtained licenses tobe able touse it, says Irina Novozhilova, president ofVITA, ananimal rights group. I thought when it all started that it would be sorted out very fast because you cant just ban aprofession. Towork without anesthesia is tocut animals when they are conscious.

Oleg Aristov, who runs aveterinary clinic inSt. Petersburg, said thealternatives are heartbreaking.

It is really painful foryour pets toundergo operations [without ketamine], Aristov said. It hurts them.

This has left vets between arock anda hard place, with two contradictory laws condemning them whichever way they turn.

If avet uses ketamine, that is aviolation ofArticle 228 forthe distribution ofnarcotics, whereas if they operate onconscious animals, it is aviolation ofArticle 245 forcruelty toanimals. So avet is faced with thechoice ofwhich law tobreak, Novozhilova said.

Ina worse case scenario, under thecurrent laws, vets face apossible sentence ofup to20 years inprison just fordoing their work. But they are left with few options.

The best medicines are believed tobe opiates, but they are completely banned inRussia, so ketamine is our only choice, Novozhilova added. Measures other than ketamine absolutely do not give thedesired effect.

Despite thelaw, vets have continued touse ketamine without alicense forthe past eight years, but thesituation was thrown intoturmoil once again inMarch, when Alexander Shpak ofSt. Petersburg was sentenced to8 1/2 years ina penal colony.

He was caught selling ketamine byan undercover agent fromthe Federal Drug Control Service, who befriended him bypretending tobe avet. Theagent eventually persuaded Shpak tosell him thedrug, claiming it was needed foran urgent operation.

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ALL ABOUT TOWN

Thursday, Aug. 21


Time is running out to see the fantastic creations on display at the 2014 Sand Castle Festival on the beach at the Peter and Paul Fortress. Adhering to the theme of Treasure Island, visitors can wander amongst larger-than-life interpretations of pirate life or attend one of the workshops held to educate a future generation of sand artists. The castles will remain on the beach until Aug. 31.



Friday, Aug. 22


Get ready to pledge allegiance to the flag during National Flag Day, paying tribute to when, 23 years ago today, the iconic hammer-and-sickle was replaced with the tricolor that now flutters in the wind. Petersburgers will be treated to a free concert on Palace Square, a military parade and a culminating air show featuring Russias Russian Knights stunt pilots.



Saturday, Aug. 23


Uppsala Park plays host to Fairy Noon today, a performance of five separate fairy tales ranging from folk classics to more haunting selections. There will be three different renditions of the tales throughout the day and tickets start at 500 rubles ($13.80) for adults and 300 rubles ($8.30) for children.


Classic Finnish cartoon characters the Moomins expect to receive a warm welcome from Russian fans during todays Moomin Festival at the Pearl Plaza Shopping Center at 51 Petergofskoye Shosse. Become a kid again or introduce a new generation to the beloved creation of Finnish writer Tove Jansson.



Sunday, Aug. 24


The tortured genius of Dutch master Vincent van Gogh gets his day in the centers Konnushnaya Ploschad during Make Art Like Van Gogh, a daylong celebration of the artist that will allow amateur artists to try and replicate the work that made the famed painter world-renowned.


Experience a variety of dances highlighting the diversity of the world around as at the final day of the Ethno-Dance International Dance Festival that has been at the St. Petersburg Humanitarian University of Trade Unions this past week. Tonights performance will feature Egyptian dancers accompanied by local orchestras.



Monday, Aug. 25


Today kicks off the Elena Obraztsovoy International Competition for Young Vocalists in the large hall of the Shostakovich Philharmonic. Talented youngsters will showcase their range over the next six days before a winner is chosen on Aug. 30.



Tuesday, Aug. 26


Love movies but hate all those words? Then check out Rodina Cinema Centers Factor of Consensus film forum this evening. Silent movie classics from the beginning of the 20th century will be screened and accompanied by a pianist, who will provide the soundtrack for the ongoing action. The screenings begin at 7 p.m. Check Rodinas website for more details.



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