Street dogs, a human problem
By Antonio De Jesús Aguado
Although it is has improved over the years, the problem of street dogs in the city is still a reality. According to information from Amigos de Animales, the Ecology Department (Dirección de Medio Ambiente y Ecología) has killed more than 8,000 dogs in the last 13 years. Last year at least 20 street dogs were captured weekly.
The problem of street dogs is not exclusive to the urban area, commented Ernesto Berra, coordinator of external affairs from the Ecology Department. They have received reports from some rural communities that packs of wild dogs have attacked sheep and even killed donkeys and other animals of the same size. This problem exists because owners do not take responsibility for spaying or neutering their pets. The animals reproduce, and some owners decide the best solution is to abandon them in el campo, which can lead to uncontrollable packs. The Ecology Department does not have the proper equipment to capture the feral dogs and, according to Berra, if they poison the dogs other animals could die, causing irreversible ecological damage.
Associations taking care of animals
The Sociedad Protectora de Animales (SPA) was founded in 1980, according to Lynn Weisberg, because of the serious problem of abandoned dogs that needed shelter. Weisberg commented that she does not have information about how great the problem was in 1980, but she said it still exists. Many dogs and cats are thrown into the streets and reproduce, owing to and lack of knowledge about neutering and spaying.
It is important that those who rescue a cat or dog from the street to know that it is their responsibility to take care of the animal, not an organization such as the SPA. Many people rescue animals and take them to the SPA, expecting that they are going to take them, but that is not always the case. The SPA has a total of 38 cages where 50 dogs can be housed, along with a puppy area, but a dog or cat cannot be accepted if there is no room. In this case, the animal is put on a waiting list, and if there is an adoption the SPA will accept a new dog or cat, depending on the size of the adopted animal.
At the SPA the animals are not killed, but kept until they are adopted or they die. Most of the time they are adopted. It has been said that it is very complicated to adopt a pet at the SPA, but Weisberg said that it is not true; those interested in adopting a dog must fill out a form (the information is basically about the conditions of the house where the pet would live), and if it is approved the potential owners are invited to get to know the animals. Members of the SPA provide as much information as possible to find the best match. After two weeks the animal must be taken back to the SPA for a free check-up. For more information, visit the SPA at Pinos 7, colonia Linda Vista, or call 152-6124.
Amigos de Animales
Amigos de Animales was founded 13 years ago to help combat the problem of mistreatment and abandonment of dogs and cats in San Miguel. When the association began, commented Naumann, the government used to poison street dogs or take them to León to be killed by electrocution. Naumann made it clear that they are not in favor of killing street dogs, but if they are killed it should be done humanely, and for that reason they started supplying pentobarbital and anesthesia to the Ecology Department, already 11 years ago.
Later, the association began taking in animals for adoption and started a program of spaying and neutering. Over 13 years more than 13,000 dogs have sterilized in rural communities. Naumann commented that the problem of abandoned dogs is so large because most people don’t stop to think that if female dog produces (twice a year) a litter of, say, five puppies (three females and two males), in eight years 50,000 thousand more dogs could be born.
Amigos de Animales was originally located on Calzada de la Estación, but now only the clinic remains at that location because of the construction of the community center of Cuevitas. In this shelter the animals were kept alive for 2 months, and if they were not adopted in that time they were put down. Currently, Amigos de Animales works along with the Ecology Department, which has its pound on Avenida Tecnológico. Amigos de Animales frequently visits this center, and when there are animals that are candidates for adoption they take them. The process for adopting a pet is very simple: those interested fill out a questionnaire and the best match will be made. Arno has personally picked up and housed 73 dogs (all of them still alive). Amigos will open its own animal clinic on Privada Ignacio Allende in Colonia San Rafael and will be open to the general public (The house for the clinic was lent and completely rebuild by the owner, Delphine Schiavone and architect Roberto Medina). For more information about this organization call Arno Naumann at 415-1096-817.
Ernesto Berra commented that every day the Ecology Department receives reports of street dogs, and many times they are in packs because a female dog is in heat. Berra commented that most of the time the department solves the problem by taking the female dog to the municipal pound. Berra said that their process for capturing the animals has been criticized by some expats in electronic forums, but he made it clear that these people should work with them instead of criticizing them, because there are no better methods for capturing the animals. Berra said that the dogs will always howl when they are leashed because they are not used to being restrained, but they do not mistreat the animals.
“The dogs that we have in the municipal pound are animals that have a roof and food and are well cared for,” he said, adding that if sanmiguelenses find street dogs they can capture them and take them to that department, where they will decide what to do with them.
Berra said that the captured animals are housed for five days, during which time the owners can claim their pets. If the owner does not appear, then they decide if the animal is a candidate for adoption and, if so, it is spayed or neutered. If it is not a viable candidate, it is killed and buried in a lot set aside for that purpose in Palo Colorado.