(AP) - The streets of Armenia's capital resound with gunfire every night, as teams of bounty hunters carry out a grisly task: destroying the city's burgeoning population of street dogs.
Special extermination teams emerge after dark and scour the city for wild canines, shooting them and dumping their bodies into trucks to be hauled away. The killing campaign enjoys broad support in this city of 1 million, where many residents see the dogs as a nuisance and a threat to public health.
"There's just no other way," said Karen Sarkisian, a university student.
The extermination crews, organized by the mayor's office, are made up of three to four people per team. Hunters earn 220 Armenian dram (about 45 cents) for each dead canine. Despite the meager compensation, the exterminators are increasing their body count. Already, in the first five months of this year, the crews have killed about 4,000 stray dogs, the same number they killed for all of last year.
Animal rights activists who oppose the killings find little sympathy in Yerevan. French film star Brigitte Bardot sent a letter to Armenia's president in the mid-1990s protesting the shooting of stray dogs and cats, but the government ignored it.
People have said they realize that the government doesn't have the money to either neuter the animals or keep them in shelters outside the city, according to media reports.