The Central Asian nation of Turkmenistan has moved to officially open its first animal shelter as it prepares to host a major international athletic competition next month.

The shelter, founded by a resident at her home outside Ashgabat, has been registered by the state and will receive government assistance, according to Monday's report in Neutral Turkmenistan.

The government has pledged to allocate land to expand the shelter, which currently houses about 100 dogs and 50 cats. It also promised to provide medicine for it.

The move comes as animal rights activists have protested what they described as a brutal campaign to slaughter homeless animals ahead of the Asian Indoor and Martial Arts Games, which Ashgabat is hosting Sept. 17-27. The ex-Soviet country sees the games as a key prestige event.