Street Dogs: Still San Miguel’s Challenge
By Jesús Aguado
For starters, there was the rooster confiscated by neighborhood police from its drunken owner. Then there was the dog that fell from a third floor in Olimpo; its owners decided afterward that they could not care for the animal. Then there was a homeless dog picked up after it was found playing with balloons in the Jardín Principal.
These types of incidents, involving different types of animals but mainly homeless dogs, occur on a weekly basis in San Miguel de Allende. It’s an invisible problem taken for granted by many. But for San Miguel’s Resguardo Canino (Dog Pound), which over the past 15 years has housed and eventually eliminated more than 10,000 dogs confiscated in the city, it’s a daily issue.
While the number of dogs they euthanize might seem exorbitant and even cruel, it is the reality under which the municipal dog pound must live since more dogs continue to arrive at its door on a regular basis.
Dogs of all sizes, colors, and temperaments, both aggressive and friendly, end up here. The vast majority of them will be euthanized a couple of months later. Some grew up homeless. Some have been abandoned or mistreated or ran away from owners and were brought in by municipal inspectors.
“The dog pound cannot shelter so many pets or find homes for them all,” says the pound’s director, Armando Valle. “Many say it’s cruel, but they don’t come to adopt them or be responsible for them.”
Currently, the pound shelters 25 dogs, of which three puppies and two adults are available for adoption. Those interested can come to the Dirección de Servicios Públicos, which oversees the Resguardo Canino, or call 152 9600 at extension 215 or 217. They need to submit a letter of responsibility, and if they are given an animal, they need to make a donation; there is no minimum or maximum amount.
Feeding homeless animals, a well-meaning idea that has been suggested in the past by some, is not an affordable option, nor is it a viable solution, because it would only cause the street-dog population to increase. The city’s experience has been that when it feeds homeless dogs, it begins to see increased incidents of street-dog attacks on humans. This then puts an extra burden on the city’s Animal Control Department.
Municipal regulations stipulate that when an animal attacks a human, “the owner, or one in possession of a dog or cat, will pay for the damages resulting from the attack.” On the flip side, Article 35 of the city’s Reglamento Para la Protección de los Animales (Regulation for the Protection of Animals), prohibits the use of solvents, corrosive poisons, sharp objects and weapons from being on animals for the purpose of extermination or attack. Sanctions start with a warning and escalate to fines of up to 200 times the minimum wage. Abandonment of animals can also incur a fine.
Mistreatment of animals is a state crime, according to Chapter IV, articles 297 and 298 of the state of Guanajuato penal code, which applies fines of up to 100 times the minimum wage and can also assign up to 90 days of community service to the perpetrator.
One man, 65 dogs, and 17 burros: the founding of Amigos de los Animales
Various organizations and informal groups exist in San Miguel and work on this problem. One man, Arno Naumann, the founder of the now-defunct nonprofit organization Amigos de los Animales, ended up giving his home, his financial resources—and one might say his whole life—to helping San Miguel’s homeless dogs.
Along the road to Jalpa, Naumann lives in a green house which he shares with 65 formerly homeless dogs. He also used to have as many as 17 burros, which he saved from being sold for 100–200 pesos to circuses as feed, but he later donated the beasts of burden to the organization Santuario de Burros. He feels proud to have given them a second chance, he says.
Naumann is now 85 years old—at least as far as he remembers. In his home, he has dogs of all sizes, colors, and breeds, each with a name. Born in Germany to an American father and a German mother, Naumann has also lived in Chile, where he worked for a Chilean company, and New York, where he was later transferred. When he retired, he went to live in Los Frailes and later bought five hectares along the road to Jalpa and began Amigos de los Animales. The organization was housed on Calzada de la Estación, where the Cuevitas Community Center now stands, with the objective of solving the problem of mistreatment, neglect, and homelessness of dogs and cats of San Miguel.
According to Arno, when the organization got started, the local government either poisoned street animals or captured them and took them to León, where they electrocuted them en masse.
Naumann’s association took the position that it was not in favor of eliminating animals, but that if it was absolutely necessary, it ought to be done humanely. And so the organization began to work with the local government, providing it with anesthesia and pentobarbital to administer euthanasia. Later, the association began to take in animals for adoption and began a sterilization program, which it brought to rural communities. The program sterilized a total of 20,000 pets over the life of the organization.
Amigos de los Animales could only keep homeless animals available for adoption for two months before it had to euthanize them. However, many dogs “chose” Naumann, he says, and he ended up adopting them himself. Others were left anonymously outside his house.
Naumann’s care for these dogs eventually took on a life of its own. He has had as many as 90 dogs in his home at one time. He recently dissolved Amigos de los Animales so that he could be sure to have sufficient resources to care for these animals already living in his home.
San Miguel’s planned animal hospital
In 2016, the local government took a new tack on the problem: it approved the use of Fondo Verde (Green Fund) money to build the state’s first animal hospital for three million pesos. The hospital, which has yet to break ground, would be only the fifth municipal animal hospital in México.
The 8,500-square-meter complex, which will have two surgical wards, two consulting rooms, a reception area, a recovery area, a pharmacy, a socializing area, and even an educational space to promote awareness about the proliferation and mistreatment of dogs and cats, has been in the works since 2007.
At the time that the funds were approved for the hospital, local officials said that it would be managed by a foundation that would also look for economic resources for the space. Equipment was to be acquired with a cost of between five to six million pesos. However, after three years, the hospital has yet to be finished.
Currently the site is an obra gris, meaning a building project that has a foundation but is not finished and does not yet have electricity, water, or drainage. According to the director of Control Canino, 900,000 pesos is needed to complete the building.
He said it would be equipped shortly.