Video by Burgman Chile
In the USA, if someone sees a stray dog, they call the dog catcher. The dog catcher’s job is to round up stray dogs and put them into public kennels. They keep the dog for a period of time. If not one wants to adopt the dog as a pet or working dog (as on a farm) they kill it.
In France, some thirty years ago, one could see dogs, not on the street, but inside glamorous restaurants. For an American, it is quite shocking to see a Great Dane lounging beneath a table in a restaurant where they serve crêpes, foie gras, and Bordeaux.
Not all dogs that are caught by the dog catcher are killed. There are kennels that take dogs (and cats) and keep them permanently if necessary. The operating costs are funded by donations. Of course, this is not practical in a large city with lots of animals unless there are really generous donors there. It costs too much money for the government to pay for that.
In Chile, stray dogs (perros vagabundos) are everywhere. One 2006 estimate put their numbers just in Santiago at 250,000. It is quite amusing to see them line up with pedestrians at the stop light, wait for the crosswalk light to turn green, then cross with the people. One can at times see dogs board a bus at one stop and get off at another. At a McDonalds, one employed pushed a stray dog into the street with a broom.
Not all of this is funny. Last week, the first case of rabies in 40 years was found in a stray dog that bit a person. He is under the care of a hospital, and all the dogs in that small city are being rounded up and vaccinated. Left untreated, rabies is fatal.
Frequently, dogs bite people here and even have killed children. Last year stray dogs bit 500 people in Punta Arenas. A 10 year old boy in the city of Calama was killed by a dog that came into his home. That dog was probably looking for food. Studies show that stray dogs here last only one year on the street before drying.
A few months ago,when the problem got out-of-hand, officials were sent into the streets to rid one park of stray dogs. This was a public relations disaster, for instead of taking the dogs to the a building and then killing them, they killed the animals right on the spot. The television cameras were there, so writhing, dying animals were shown in an endless loop on TV.
The mayor of Punta Areas blames the owners for this problem. He said, “They owners of these pets are the only possible solution.”
When anyone even broaches the subject of adopting a dog-catcher-kill system here in Chile, teenagers take to the streets in protest. They say that animals, like people, have rights. (In the USA, the radio broadcaster Rush Limbaugh–a powerful figure on the right who says what he thinks–says “Animals have no rights.”)
Here the thinking is turned about. Listen to what one animal rights organization says, “Recognizing the rights of animals for adequate treatment according to their needs is a step in the right direction to solving the problem. They have the right so that the owners are forced to take care of them. Now is the time for legislation to address this issue.” That seems far fetched in a country where school children living in cardboard shacks cannot afford pencils (A teacher in San Bernando said that.)–they certainly cannot afford dog food.
There is only one possible solution to the problem here. If the animal rights people say the government cannot kill the dogs then the animal rights people have the responsibility to raise money to build places for them to live. A country cannot have dangerous and even rabid dogs roaming the street. It is a health and public safety issue.
The only positive point to the Chilean point-of-view is that dogs here are not required to be on a leash. The USA is a bit ridiculous about that. An animal natural wants to run free. In the USA they cannot.
(7) Readers Comments
April 24, 2017
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April 06, 2017
Judging a creative writing contest is to pretend authority and, even m
Anita! I know someone who wants to work in Chile but as electrician. D
I really enjoyed this story. It made me think about my own predisposit
Thank you, Scott.
I have been living in Santiago for about one year and I can confirm th