What is it about people who get pets, mostly dogs or cats,  and then dispose of them like so much garbage? And then these poor animals have to fend for themselves, scavenging for food in garbage cans, procreating, getting sick, maybe even spreading disease.  Not to mention having to stake out and defend their territory.

Somehow, these bad human habits seem to be more prevalent in southern and eastern European countries and I have just witnessed them in rural Argentina and everywhere I visited in Chile, including the capital of Santiago.  Invariably, I was followed by one or more stray dogs.  Almost instinctively these poor beasts knew that they would find an empathetic soul in me.  When I asked local residents, they shrugged and acknowledged, yes, it is a problem, but what can be done about it and looked the other way.  Municipalities seem to do nothing or undertake a yearly poisoning-and-cremation-spree. Local pet shelters or programs are hopelessly overworked, underfunded and understaffed – if they exist at all.

It was especially bad on Easter Island.  There are approx. 4500 year-round residents on the island and easily several hundred stray dogs. As a concerned animal lover, it breaks my heart to see these dogs, free to roam but unwanted and unloved, kept away from properties by persons throwing stones after them. The nightly barking contest was especially obnoxious.  An American resident living outside the town of Hanga Rua, who shelters as many dogs as her family can handle, had just had three dogs (from a total of five) poisoned in one day by an ill-willing neighbor.  Her small children were devastated.  She told me of an American vet who had come five years in a row, volunteering his services, especially to neuter the animals, bringing his own equipment and medicine.  The authorities, instead of welcoming these services, set up so many bureaucratic hurdles, that he ended up quitting his altruistic actions.

What is to be done?  There have been attempts at trying to get university veterinary clinics to donate at least basic vet services, especially neutering. How successful these efforts are, I cannot say; but from the present sheer number of stray dogs in Chilean cities and on Easter Island, I don’t think very.  At any rate, these animals deserve a better life.

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3 Comments

  1. Oh my Heart Hurts….and this is truly one of the main reasons that I worry about travel. I always manage to see something that involves little critters, cats, dogs, that ruins my day and my memories of my “fun” travels….The casualness of those who live along with these poor creatures of the World, seem to be oblivious or insensitive, and if I ever commented, they dismissed my concerns with “it is only an animal…..” I found that I could read your report in it’s entirety, as I began to cry and it ruined my sharing of the “good times” of your travels. I am glad to know you care, just wish we could experience more who do as well……

  2. liebe Zenaida,
    dein Bericht hat mich sehr berührt. bei unserer Reise durch Mexico haben wir auch viele wild lebende Hunde gesehen. Katzen gab es kaum. wahrscheinlich sind die schon fast ausgestorben. Was wir in Deutschland manchmal mit unseren Tieren machen ist zu viel. Aber wie arm diese Tiere in andern Ländern sind, du kannst es schon in Spanien beobachten, sie werden nicht geliebt. Aber denk mal an die vielen Kinder, die wild leben, weil keiner sie haben will. es ist noch viel zu tun auf dieser Welt.
    liebe Grüße
    Dagmar

  3. Hello Vera, yes, we cannot turn our eyes away … and yet I think that doing “good” starts at home and in our own environment where we CAN make a difference. In the meantime, I have found out that there are 2.5 million stray dogs in Chile alone according to an investigative TV report. Nobody claims responsiblity for them, least of all any municipalities and the job is simply too big for private organisations to handle with everyday people’s donations.

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