Official estimates show Mexico has the highest number of stray dogs in all of Latin America, with more than 15 million countrywide. Animal advocates have said the vast majority of strays were abandoned by their owners. Alasdair Baverstock reports.
These animals represent a public health risk. Several cases of canine attacks have made headlines in Mexico over the past two years.
The Antonio Haghenbeck Foundation is Mexico’s only hospital for stray dogs, with two ambulances in circulation scouring the streets for at-risk animals.
“As well as aggression, stray dogs put public health at risk through their feces, which when dried is added to the atmosphere,” explained the foundation’s chief veterinarian, Fernando Martinez. “Rabies is also an issue in Mexico, particularly in areas where infected dogs can affect other wildlife and spread the virus.”
Once a stray has been picked up by authorities, Mexican law states that any ownership rights to the animal expire after 72 hours. Many of those dogs end up being euthanized, but that’s not the policy at the Haghenbeck Foundation.
Since 1984, the Antonio Haghenbeck Foundation has sterilized almost 40,000 stray dogs. It’s done in an attempt to curb the number of animals that roam the streets of Mexico City.
Rather than put the dogs down, the foundation tries to give them a second chance. Following their treatment, the animals end up as candidates for adoption.
“Adoption is really important, but we make sure the process pairs dogs and families that will stay together. This way we ensure a better future for these dogs that have had hard lives,” said Gabriel Romo, an adoption agent for the foundation.
Even so, the number of stray dogs on Mexico’s streets continues to rise, and solutions aren’t easy to come by.
Those working at the Antonio Haghenbeck Foundation have said all Mexico needs is to embrace one simple idea: that dogs truly deserve to be called a man’s best friend.