Cats and dogs are the most popular pets in every country we have visited. In many Latin American countries, stray dogs were common. They were not feral, so they were most likely abandoned. In some cases the dogs would form packs. While gathering in packs may have provided social contact, it did little to provide sustenance. It was still every dog for itself.
Some expat communities have helped fund spay and neuter services. We observed this in some locations in Chile, Panama, and Mexico. There are now branches of the Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals in a number of countries. They do wonderful work, but they are vastly underfunded for the scale of challenges they face. Although I think citizens of emerging nations appreciate the benefits of animal controls, I do not think it is a priority. Locals who live on sustenance-level incomes cannot afford to consider animal welfare ahead of their priority of feeding and caring for family members first.
Here is my rant. Many expats bring their dogs with them when they relocate to another country. Particularly in Spain, I have noticed few people, locals or expats, clean up their pets’ poop. There are stinky little land mines everywhere. You would not dare walk on the grass in a park for fear of stepping in a pile of poop. A picnic blanket on the grass would be a ridiculous fantasy.
I love animals. They are not the problem. Their owners are the problem, a serious enough problem that a national campaign to get dog walkers to pick up after their dogs is underway in Spain. Posters in bus stop shelters show dogs imploring people to do the task the dogs cannot do for themselves – pick up their poop. Some cities have employed local ‘poop patrols’, service workers who have acquired the unfortunate nickname of ‘brownshirts’, a reference to Hitler’s pro-Nazi storm troopers. Just last week the local papers reported the first fine levied on a dog owner for failure to pick up after his pet. This was a second offense. I believe the first offense is a warning and subsequent offenses carry a €100 fine equivalent to $137.
In most cities in Spain, stray cats are an issue. These mangy, dirty and often diseased felines can be spotted under parked cars around markets, dumpsters and places wherever people toss scraps. One local here in Torrevieja found an injured cat that had obviously been hit by a vehicle. He mercifully took the cat to a local veterinarian to have it put down to end its suffering. The vet performed this task and then billed the guy €160, over $200. When he protested the cost which he grudgingly paid, the vet’s receptionist told him, ‘We are not a charity. If we did not charge for this service, we would be inundated with animals.’
I can wring my hands and feel indignant about the poor treatment of cats and dogs in some countries. However, the fact remains that not all societies think of domestic animals as members of the family. To many they are just animals, and if they do not have a caring owner they are nothing more than a nuisance. It is sad to think about, but it is not something that will go away anytime soon. The best we can do is to encourage responsible pet ownership. That is true in every country including our own.
Ah, Spain and their attitude to dogs eh? That’s why we have two abandoned dogs. I read a class post recently about Spanish attitude to dogs, if I remember (which is unlikely) I’ll add the link.
There was a dying horse near our finca, chucked out by someone who didn’t want to pay the vet to put him down. Some vicious brutes were going to kick a dying animal (I ask you) and Partner threatened to kick the pair of them if they even approached it. A British woman and her friend called a vet and paid for him to be put down.
And as a dog owner, I really get frustrated with those who don’t pick up. You can get 80 bags from Eroski for two euros. What is the problem with that? It gives us all a bad name when people don’t pick up. It’s not the street sweeper’s job and it’s not the gardener’s job either, it’s mine.
We are still in a minority picking up in our village. It is campo, so there is also horse, sheep, goat and draught cattle poo in the roads. When you see a road and pavement covered in all that, you wonder why pick up? It costs us little though, 2.5 centimos a bag and a few seconds.
Sadly Spain – and as you say, all our countries – have a long way to come regarding treatment of animals and owner responsibility. Caveat – I do not claim to be a perfect animal owner.
It seems you are more conscientious than many pet owners. You point out precisely the prevailing attitude, that since no one else seems to be picking up after their dogs, why should I? Ultimately, there has to be an incentive. The big tourist destinations like Barcelona and Spain have an economic motivation to keep their streets clean. It is unfortunate that less touristic locales are not similarly motivated. Thank you for sharing your comments. – Mike
This is a (disgusting) issue anywhere you go, but I too have especially noticed it when traveling abroad. I still remember when “scooper pooper” laws went into effect here (US). It took a long time for people to get used to cleaning up after their dogs. No doubt it will be slow in coming to Europe as well. We take it for granted now, but man… it’s shitty to deal with! (couldn’t resist, Mike!). Good for you for speaking up!
I know Americans have sort of ‘evolved’ on the issue of cleaning up after their pets, even though it took legislation and social pressure to make it take hold. That is exactly what is needed in other countries. The legislation is gradually happening. The social pressure has yet to take effect. Let us hope the situation improves. I am pretty tired of dodging piles on the sidewalk on my daily walks about town. – Mike
I totally agree with your opinions about animals, Mike! My 86 year old mother carries little baggies in her jackets and sweaters, in the winter her heavy coats, if she can bend down and clean up after her little dog, why cannot younger people do this simple, courteous act?! I am saddened about the cats everywhere and glad that there are sympathetic people who donate time, money and help out shelters to get the cats neutered and spayed. Great post, lively conversations! Smiles, Robin
I know that pet owners in the U.S. tend to be more diligent about their dogs in public than elsewhere in the world. I also have to be careful not to appear too condescending toward pet owners in other countries since I am a guest in their country. One way that could speed up the change abroad is to publicize the problem in specific areas. If people stop visiting places because of disgusting issues like dog poop, the economic impact of decreased tourism would have a jarring effect on local habits. Or one can hope so. Thanks, Robin.
Buenos Aires is very similar, with the problem compounded by the dog-walkers who walk 10-15 at a time!
Good lord, could it be any worse than to compound the problem through multiple offenses? Your comment is a great addition. Thanks, Douglas.
As you might expect, in Planet Boulder, where pet owners are often referred to as guardians, there is a requirement to pick up after pets. This has led to an unusual phenomenon. While most folks pick up and carry away, a fair number of people bag their dog’s doo-doo and leave it by the trail!! Always have to wonder who they expect will pick it up!
Hey Mike! I’ve been out of town for awhile and have missed several of your posts, so I’m trying to catch up. Pet poop is a pet peeve of mine too. It’s not a huge problem in Orange County because there are free pet poop bags at almost every park or trail where people walk dogs and the majority of people pick up after their pets. Still, I see more poop at parks than I’d like and I just don’t get why some owners fail to pick up after their dogs. Ugh!
As far as responsible pet ownership, I really wish that was promoted more everywhere!
You might want to check out Rescue Chocolate, an organization that donates money to animal rescue organizations. I’m gonna send my dad some of their chocolate bars for his birthday next month. http://www.rescuechocolate.com/
Hope all is well and happy St. Patty’s Day! Celeste 🙂
We are still dodging ‘land mines’ on the local sidewalks. On quieter streets we just walk in the street to avoid the poop. Happy St. Patrick’s Day, Celeste! Thank you for adding your comments.