Animal-welfare groups are calling for an end to the killings of stray dogs in Sochi after a Russian pest control company confirmed it has a contract to exterminate the animals before and during the Olympic Games.

Alexei Sorokin, director general of pest control firm Basya Services, told The Associated Press on Feb. 3 that his company is involved in the "catching and disposing" of dogs.

Sorokin said a stray dog walked in front of performers during a rehearsal of the Olympic opening ceremony last week and he "took it away."

"God forbid something like this happens at the actual opening ceremony,” he said. “This will be a disgrace for the whole country."

Sorokin says the dogs are "biological trash" that pose a threat to athletes and spectators, citing the possibility of a dog jumping in front of a ski jumper.

Sorokin refused to comment on how the dogs are killed or how many have been killed, but animal rights groups told The Toronto Star that most dogs are trapped and then taken outside the city where they are killed.

"We're concerned to hear about the dog culls in Sochi," said Elizabeth Sharpe, a spokesperson for the Toronto chapter of the World Society for the Protection of Animals. "These mass killings are cruel, ineffective and unnecessary."

Last year Sochi officials canceled a program to "catch and dispose" of more than 2,000 stray dogs and cats after animal activists protested the move.

"Only formalized vaccination, sterilization and responsible pet ownership programs can effectively and humanely control dog populations in the long-term," Sharpe said in a statement.

Authorities pledged to build an animal shelter to house, spay and neuter the strays instead, but activists say there's no evidence such a shelter has been built.

The Sochi Games aren't the first Olympic games to make headlines for ridding the city of strays.

Before the 2004 games in Athens, the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals expressed concern that dogs there would be poisoned.

In 2008, Beijing reportedly killed thousands of cats as part of efforts to clean up the city.

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Laura Moss writes about a variety of topics with a focus on animals, science, language and culture. But she mostly writes about cats.

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