Reporting — 30 August 2013

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.
perros vagabundos






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(7) Readers Comments

  1. So these people kill the dogs because they have nobody to take care of them Dogs have so much to teach human beings. I wonder why human beings believe they are superior to dogs.
    Gandhi said:
    “The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way in which its animals are treated”.
    I agree with him. Enough said.

  2. In USA they kill dogs, do not even start. Chile is a contry that is in progression and has way to go. The belief of killing them just because they don’t have an owner pisses me off. Why if they are living creatures, shouldn’t be as worthy as you to live? Eventually that country will have shelters and rescue groups. But again we are talking of a country that can’t be compared because there is only 17 million people. And there are shelters, were dogs are being saved it may not be as many as USA but is an start. Also people give them food and water even though they are not their dogs. So begin to see the backgrounds too. People should start think twice when wonder about killing dogs.

    • Florencia,

      If Chile has passion for stray dogs then people like yourself should donate money to build shelters to give them a home instead of letting them die on the street.


    • I have worked in humane societies in the U.S. and the overwhelming majority of dogs are NOT KILLED, instead they are given shots, spade or neutered, and adopted. However, if a stray dog attacks someone or has an incredibly aggressive personality and it ends up in the humane society, the odds are that that dog is going to be put down because it is a risk to public health. The same should be true in Chile; if a dog or pack of dogs attack a human or try to because the person is walking ‘in their territory’ they should be killed because THEY ARE A DANGER TO EVERYONE. A human and dog’s life are not even close to being equal in any way shape or form so don’t treat them as such!

      Maybe killing all of Chile’s stray dogs is not the solution and right now the government and people cannot afford to house them, but at least get rid of the dogs/packs that have proven to be dangerous!!! HOW MANY PEOPLE ARE YOU GOING TO BE ATTACKED OR EVEN DIE IN ORDER FOR YOUR DOGS TO BE ‘FREE’. It is seriously the most ridiculous argument in the world.

      And don’t be nieve, the majority of those dogs live awful lives that end in starving, disease, or being killed by other packs. By getting rid of the aggressive, mean packs it would do everyone a huge service.

  3. That’s something I have been asking myself in the area of Bogota I live in: Why are there no stray dogs? Is it because people care enough about their dogs to not let them loose, or is there some kind of government intervention? In my sixteen years living in Venezuela, where most dogs are strays, I saw some horrible things on the streets.

  4. I have just returned from Chile. There are hundreds of dogs wandering the streets – in one town there were at least 3 on every corner but when I returned a week later there were no dogs at all…..where did all the dogs of Pucon go? I fed one border terrier which sat quietly just outside the restaurant I was in. In the three weeks I was there I would have to say that the dogs are all very well behaved but they are starving and often carrying injuries from road accidents. I saw very few puppies, mainly dogs getting some grey hairs, so one thing I would like to point out is that these dogs are NOT STRAYS, they are not feral, they are not wild, they are ABANDONED BY HEARTLESS, CRUEL AND IGNORANT OWNERS. Shame on them and shame on a country that is not dealing with the stupid owners but is blaming the dogs. I write in the memory of a pedigree black greyhound in Linares – starving to death outside the veterinary surgery where it was dumped and where it waits for its owner to return to it. Heartbreaking. This problem is a blight on the beauty and wonder of Chile. My father was born in Chile – I would be ashamed to call it my country.

    • Dido, you know what makes me crazy? Many Chileans believe that a dog should sire a litter or have puppies before you castrate or sterilize them. That is for their machismo and sense of well-being. Ridiculous. It they just got the dogs of the street it would not make this country look backwards, like Ecuador, and it would reduce torturing dogs to death by starvation (although many people feed strays.) and mange.

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