Alcoholic Russian Bears Are Getting Help at Romanian Rehab

By May Wilkerson 03/04/15

The rescued bears will finally receive help after 20 years of abuse.

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They won’t be the first, nor the last celebrities to enter rehab, but they may be the furriest. The Russian bears who became dependent on alcohol after a restaurant in Sochi fed them booze to entertain customers are finally getting help for their drinking problem.

Since their heartbreaking story surfaced after 20 years of maltreatment, a court ruled that the creatures be taken into custody by the government. They are now being sent to a bear sanctuary in Romania, where they will be treated for alcohol addiction, says British animal welfare group, The Big Hearts Foundation.

Apparently, it’s not the first time the sanctuary has treated bears for substance addiction. "The people there have worked with dancing bears who had similar problems," said Anna Kogan, head of the Big Hearts Foundation. "It can be done."

The process of transporting the animals abroad is “very expensive” and requires the assistance of multiple charities, said Kogan. The Russian Nature Ministry is covering costs, while animal rights groups from France and Britain are chipping in to help with paperwork.

Kogan said the bears "drowned in beer" while being kept in closed, unsanitary quarters at the restaurant for two decades.

"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,” she told The Independent. "Bears have a stronger reaction to alcohol than humans—they can die.” One of the bears was also blinded by customers’ car lights.

The owner of the Sochi restaurant had reportedly claimed that "beer is good for the bears because of the Sochi climate." In 12-step parlance, this is what is called an “enabler.”

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May Wilkerson is a writer, comic and Managing Editor @someecards. Co-host of the podcast Crazy; In Bed w/alyssalimp. She is also the top Google result for "insufferable lunatic." Follow this insufferable lunatic on Twitter.