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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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Thursday, Nov. 27


The Customs and Transportation Committee for AmCham meets this morning at 9 a.m. in their office on Ulitsa Yakubovicha.


Tickets are still available for local KHL team SKA St. Petersburgs showdown with Siberian club Metallurg Novokuznetsk tonight at 7:30 p.m. in the Ice Palace outside the Prospekt Bolshevikov metro station. Tickets can be purchased on the teams website, at the arena box office or in their merchandise store on Nevsky Prospekt.


Celebrate one of Russian literatures most tragic figures during Blok Days, a two-day celebration of the 134th anniversary of the poets birthday. The tragic tenors work, which led to writer Maxim Gorky to hail him as Russias greatest living poet before his death in 1921, will be recited and meetings and discussions about his contributions to the Silver Age of literature in St. Petersburg will be discussed in the confines of his former residence.



Friday, Nov. 28


Join table game aficionados at the British Book Centers Board Game Evening. Held every Friday at 5 p.m., aficionados and amateurs alike can come take part in a variety of different games that test ones intellect and cunning.



Saturday, Nov. 29


Cats, dogs, birds, rodents and reptiles are just some of the things that will walk and crawl at Lenexpo convention center this weekend as part of Zooshow, a two-day exhibition featuring not only mans best friends but a four-legged fashion show, as well as a food fair that will help pet owners find out more about which kibbles are best for their hungry pets.



Sunday, Nov. 30


Remember the 75th anniversary of the beginning of the Russo-Finnish war in 1939 during todays reenactment titled Winter War: How it Was. More than 200 people will take part in recreating the opening salvoes of the battle for the north in Kamenka, a small village situated between Vyborg and St. Petersburg, using authentic equipment and vintage vehicles from the era. The faux battle begins at 2 p.m.



Monday, Dec. 1


Serbia filmmaker Emir Kusturica is the featured guest this evening at the Lensovet Palace of Culture the Petrograd Side. Fans of the director will get the chance to watch his movie Black Cat, White Cat, as well as ask questions about his award-winning filmography. Tickets for the event, which starts at 7 p.m., start at 2,000 rubles ($42.50).



Tuesday, Dec. 2


Today is the final day of Takoy Festival, a three-week program of plays based on the works of Dostoevsky, Remarque and other famed European writers, whose work is transcribed for theatrical performances. Tonights festival finale is Fathers and Sons, a two-act drama staged by the Novosibirsk Academic Drama Theater based on Turgenevs classic about familial relations.



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