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Cuba’s Stray Dogs Have Their Champions

Cuba’s Stray Dogs Have Their Champions
By Ivet González

HAVANA, Sep 2 2013 (IPS) – The stray cat’s fur was burned and its eyes
were hanging from its sockets when pensioner Neida González found it on
a street in the Cuban capital. The cat, which she named Grenlito, now
lives with her eight other pets.

“I’ve lost count of all the animals I’ve saved. I also feed 16 cats that
live in the garage of my apartment building,” González told IPS. From a
young age, she has been taking in dogs and other stray animals, and
helping to organise massive citizens’ campaigns for spaying, neutering
and worming.

“Over the years, networks have formed of people devoted to the
protection of animals. We keep each other up-to-date on veterinary
campaigns and help each other with food and medicine,” she said.

Nongovernmental organisations, community projects, and people with no
particular affiliation are now part of a movement that helps animals in
a country where no shelters exist to facilitate adoptions of stray cats
and dogs.

“A source of financing needs to be found for an animal shelter,” Nora
García, president of the nongovernmental Cuban Association for the
Protection of Animals and Plants (ANIPLANT), told IPS.

“However, the solution needs to be more comprehensive and must include a
programme of massive sterilisation of both male and female animals,” she
added. “We advocate the prevention of undesired animal births, instead
of killing dogs and cats that nobody wants.”

Her group has championed and put into practice this idea since 1992.

In 2012, ANIPLANT neutered more than 4,000 animals (both paid and free
of charge), mostly in the capital and in the provinces of Holguín,
Artemisa, Matanzas, Camagüey and the Isla de la Juventud island, where
the group also has members. Other groups, such as the Cuban Association
of Cat Lovers, also carry out free health campaigns.

A sad fate awaits stray animals in Cuba.

Government vehicles regularly pick up stray dogs and aggressive dogs to
prevent the spread of diseases like rabies, which can be deadly for
humans. The animal health authorities take them to dog pounds, where
they are put to sleep if nobody claims them within a given period.

Stray animals, especially puppies, are often used to train or simply
entertain dogs used in dog fighting. Underground dog fights, which have
fans in outlying urban and rural areas, are associated with illegal
gambling, which is punishable by fines or two to three years in prison.

Animals on the streets are also at risk of being hit by cars, and they
often suffer from cruelty, as well as untreated diseases, which make
them a public health threat.

“Animals are mistreated, both consciously and unconsciously. That is why
we emphasise the education factor, and the need to raise children and
adolescents to take care of and love animals. We promote effective
protection, which goes beyond feeding and includes aspects such as
vaccination and spaying/neutering,” García said.

However, the activists are working in a legal vacuum, as the few
regulations that exist in Cuba apply to draught animals.

Because of that situation, since 1988 ANIPLANT has been systematically
introducing a draft law for the protection of animals to the Ministry of
Agriculture, she said.

The most recent proposal was presented in 2007, with the support of the
nongovernmental Veterinary Science Council.

The proposed law would penalise abandonment, irresponsible ownership,
and the use of painful methods for putting down dogs at shelters and for
killing animals at slaughterhouses, García said.

In Neida González’s opinion, a law specifically addressing these
questions would make it possible to counter “a lack of understanding
among human beings.”

Despite the work of these organisations and the “invisible army,” as
García refers to the network of animal rescuers, much remains to be
done, especially outside of Havana.

“When people abandon animals or fail to control their reproduction, the
number of stray animals grows,” she said.

High prices for food and medicines make pet ownership expensive.

Rosario Tio, a resident of the Havana municipality of Cerro, beefs up
the diet of her German shepherd, Chagui, with leftovers donated by her
neighbours. “My finances took a turn for the worse. I can’t always buy
him meat or pay for vaccines, which are only sold in CUC,” she told IPS.
Not everyone in Cuba has access to CUCs, the Cuban currency in
circulation in place of the dollar.

The Heritage, Community and Environment Society of the Havana City
Historian’s Office (OHC) conducts free public worming campaigns in the
old city.

For years, the OHC has been trying to create a shelter where people can
adopt dogs. It has also allowed city museums and gardens to take in
stray animals.

Many of these dogs stroll through Old Havana wearing collars and tags
with their photo and name, and the name of the animal protection
organisation that sponsors them.

The Casa de la Obrapía museum has had Canela, a dog, and Junípero, a
cat, for eight and two years, respectively. “We feed them and give them
veterinary care. They are also an attraction, because visitors are
surprised to find them here,” museum director Janet Quiroga told IPS.

The City Animals Protection project has a Facebook page, PAC-Cuba, where
it describes itself as “a group of people who work to reduce the number
of animals living on the streets of Havana.”

Source: “IPS – Cuba’s Stray Dogs Have Their Champions | Inter Press
Service” –

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