By Timothy Heritage SOCHI, Russia (Reuters) – Olympic chiefs tried to ease concern about the fate of stray dogs in Sochi on Wednesday, saying only sick and dying animals were being destroyed before the city hosts the Winter Games. In the latest problem to mar President Vladimir Putin's preparations for the Olympics, animal rights activists have protested to him over reports that stray dogs are being culled to clear them off the streets before the Games begin on Friday. But International Olympic Committee spokesman Mark Adams said the dogs were being sent to a sanctuary after they were caught, and added: "It would be absolutely wrong to say that any healthy dog is being destroyed." The outcry over the dogs, along with security concerns and criticism of Putin's record on democracy and human rights, is undermining the president's attempts to use the Olympics to improve Russia's image. Animal rights group Humane Society International said this week it had written to Putin to urge him to stop what it called the culling in Sochi.