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Alcoholic Russian bears may get rehab help in Romania

Anna Kogan, head of the Big Hearts Foundation, said the two male bears became addicted to alcohol as a result of being given drinks by patrons at the restaurant where they have lived for 20 years.

By
Ben Hooper
One of the two alcoholic bears living in a cage outside a Sochi restaurant. Photo courtesy of the Big Hearts Foundation
One of the two alcoholic bears living in a cage outside a Sochi restaurant. Photo courtesy of the Big Hearts Foundation

SOCHI, Russia, March 2 (UPI) -- A pair of Russian bears purported to have become alcoholics from living outside a Sochi restaurant for 20 years are being offered rehab in Romania.

The Big Hearts Foundation said the two male bears, which a February court ruling ordered to be seized from the owner of the Georgian restaurant in Sochi on March 3, have been offered a new home at a bear sanctuary outside Brasov, Romania, where officials said the animals would be treated for alcohol addiction.

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"The people there have worked with dancing bears who had similar problems," Anna Kogan, head of the Big Hearts Foundation, told the BBC. "It can be done."

The Big Hearts Foundation, based in Britain, is working with charities, including France's Brigitte Bardot Foundation, to secure transport for the animals. Kogan said the charities are seeking help with the logistics of the bears' move.

"It's a very expensive process to move them abroad," Kogan said.

Sergei Zenkov of the Russian Nature Ministry said the agency would support moving the Sochi bears to the Romanian sanctuary, but the animal rights charities would be responsible for taking care of the necessary paperwork.

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The Big Hearts Foundation said the bears "drowned in beer" at the restaurant for 20 years, as patrons would frequently pass drinks to the animals. The owner of the restaurant said "beer is good for the bears because of the Sochi climate."

"There are drunken people who come to the restaurant, park their cars in front of the bears and throw things to the animals so that they get drunk and behave funnily. They are held in cages -- and have been blinded by the car lights," Kogan told The Independent.

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