Wednesday, October 31, 2007

We Have Done So Little to Solve the Problem of Stray and Homeless Animals

I just took a look at this article in the New York Times -Puerto Rico Tackles Issue Of Stray Dogs' Suffering - published on January 6, 1998, close to 10 years ago, and the situation has only worsened.

This was part of the description back then.

The plight of Puerto Rico's stray dogs, many of them mixed breeds known as satos, is now the subject of a campaign by animal rights groups in Puerto Rico and on the United States mainland who say the problem, while common to many countries, is unacceptable in an American territory.

The groups say there is a dire need for more animal shelters, for mass sterilizations and for an educational campaign to promote responsibility among dog owners who think nothing of dumping their pets on beaches or along roadsides when the animals are regarded as too expensive or inconvenient.

''There are few places where you see the overt suffering that you see in Puerto Rico,'' said Joyce R. Briggs, a spokeswoman with the American Humane Association in Colorado, which distributed a grim video last summer on Puerto Rico's satos to raise awareness and money for animal protection efforts.

The problem resulted, at least in part, from years of neglect and the low priority given to the strays by government officials, animal rights groups say.

Officials of the Puerto Rican government have said they consider the strays to be the responsibility of the island's 78 municipalities.

Puerto Rico has no animal control officers or dog registry. Moreover, animal cruelty laws are not enforced, animal rights advocates say, and no government agency is directly responsible for the strays. But the main problem, the advocates said, is the attitude of many Puerto Ricans.

And that is pretty much the way it still is now, only probably worse. The 1998 article goes on to state that:

Many animal rights groups advocate a broad, government-subsidized sterilization campaign, and veterinarians favor an equal emphasis on changing the public perception of strays through school programs and public service announcements and passing legislation to require owners to register their pets and make vaccines for rabies mandatory.

''The problem is not the dogs, it's the owners,'' said Dr. Carlos Mongil, [then] president of the Puerto Rican Veterinary Medical Association, which this year plans to participate in a private, subsidized spaying and neutering program. ''We can sterilize all the dogs, but if people don't change their perception, we'd still have stray dogs. The same owner who dumps won't sterilize.''

Suffice it to say that I have yet to hear of the broad, government-subsidized sterilization campaign, or the school programs or the public service announcements. Nor is there any legislation requiring guardians to register their pets. And as for the Puertorrican Veterinary Medical Association, it is still pushing legislation for microchips and mandatory sterilizations.

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