If you think the homeless dog and cat problem in the United States is bad, you haven’t seen anything compared to countries like Mexico, Nicaragua, Guatemala, etc. The pet overpopulation problem has global reach, but I’ll focus on Mexico since I’ve spent 15 of the last 20 months here.
When I first started to live in Mexico for several months at a time back in August 2015, I read a blog by an American man who tried to retire here with his wife, only to leave and return to the U.S. because she couldn’t handle all the stray dogs that needed help. (I’ve searched for the blog entry, but can’t find it.) The problem was his wife took in every stray dog she could. She couldn’t handle seeing street dogs.
When street dogs become enough of a problem, sometimes poison is left for them. Yea. Like that. It happens. It really happens. (Warning, this link contains content that will disturb animal lovers.)
It sounds cruel and inhumane and animal lovers get extremely upset when this kind of news surfaces. I’m not saying poisoning dogs is acceptable, it’s just that there’s no easy solution. There’s no money in the budgets of these towns and cities for a dog warden or a dog pound where euthanasia can happen behind concrete walls, as it happens in the U.S. Poverty is widespread here and families will spend money on their own food and medicine needs before they add a vet bill to their budgets. There are spay and neuter clinics organized by volunteers, but that barely puts a dent in the issue because there are so many dogs.
When unwanted pets start to roam a town, they form packs. I’ve seen it many places, including here in Puerto Escondido. I’ll jog the surf beach Zicatela, and watch the pack follow a female down the beach when she’s in heat. The latest pack this week was 14 dogs-strong.
Sometimes a pack ends up in town – either the tourist part at Zicatela, or a few kilometers to the north on the main drag called the Adoquin, which is a road that runs parallel to Playa Principal. Shop owners shoo the dogs away and pedestrians quicken their pace and eventually the pack is encouraged or chased back onto the beach, where they continue to roam. I won’t even get into the dog shit – watch where you walk, or jog. And again, this problem is not unique to Puerto or to Mexico. I’ve seen it every country I’ve visited in Central America, from Panama to Belize.
Sometimes street dogs have some kind of hideous growth, or they are missing a leg.
Sometimes they try to sniff your backpack as you lounge on the beach, or pee on your towel, or beg for food as you eat lunch. (Yes, we give them a scrap or two.)
Sometimes street dogs simply lay down on the sidewalk in the middle of town.
Sometimes you’re sitting on a bench in town minding your own business when suddenly you are surrounded by dogs.
Sometimes you’ll be in a club on New Year’s Eve and one will appear out of nowhere on the dance floor when you’ve spun around.
Sometimes a stray will hang out in a grocery store lobby, where it’s cooler than outside (smart dog).
Cat overpopulation is a problem, too. When we stayed in Puerto Vallarta, there was a debate on a Facebook group about whether people should continue to feed the cats near the Romantic Zone because they kept reproducing and the food seemed to be encouraging their health and vitality. There was concern about the worms and diseases cats carry infecting tourists.
There are rescue operations, such as one in Tulum. When possible through donations and volunteers, a stray is sent to the U.S. to a ‘forever home’. But the U.S. has its own issues with stray animals and unwanted pets.
This is where I give major props to my sister. She’s always been an animal lover. I can remember when we were little girls and she would want to cuddle and love every dog that came within sight of her. I’m a dog lover, but my sister Karen is a dog crusader.
She volunteers for the Silicon Valley Pet Project and just became a foster mom for the first time to a sweet dog. The SVPP saves dogs from “death row” at the local pound, and finds homes for them. Sometimes they stay at foster homes like my sister’s before they find a new permanent owner. Many of the dogs have health issues, or they are senior dogs whose first owners could no longer care for them. That makes some of them seem a little heartbroken: they’ve led good lives but suddenly find themselves in cages at the city pound.
Right now, Karen and her husband are fostering a dog named Muffin – while they already have a household full of their own pets. That’s the kind of people they are. Kind. I love them.
Sometimes, when I get a bit bummed out over all the dogs I see here (and other places) that need love and care and direction from a human owner, I remember my sister and my brother-in-law and the action they are taking to make a few souls feel better. My sis and bro are two people who are simply doing what they can to help ease the anxiety of dogs who are unwanted or abandoned, intentional or not. That gives me some comfort. There are indeed people who help in the world, helping where they can.
My current lifestyle isn’t one that would be fair to a pet. We move around every month (or two or three) and many of the places where we live (including hotels) don’t allow dogs. But one day. One day I’ll have a pet again if I’m able. I used to have a dog, a long time ago. She was the best dog ever. In a way, I’ve never gotten over her loss. But that’s a whole other story.
If you want to help stray dogs in Mexico, here are a few links to organizations I’ve come across from various Facebook groups. (I do not have any direct experience with any of these groups.)
Perros en Puerto (Dogs in Puerto Escondido)
Lost Dog Foundation (Mostly in Tulum)
The Ranch (Lakeside Spay & Neuter Clinic – Ajijic & Chapala)