Street dogs – what are your first thoughts when you hear that phrase? Don’t we usually think about developing countries, like India and China, and stories of the street dogs of Moscow numbering in the tens of thousands and riding public transport to get to places where they know they will be fed?
More recently, the story about street dogs in Detroit was in the news – something we might have a problem wrapping our brains around…surely these dogs are only “strays.” As if that subtle shift in language should somehow make us feel better…safer. Or maybe it’s just easier to dismiss the idea that way. But here’s something that is true: there are 200,000 street dogs roaming around Puerto Rico, a territory of the US. You see them everywhere, with one exception – but I’ll leave that for later. There is some debate about transporting street dogs, some fear of disease, and worries about displacement of dogs here needing homes.
Street dogs have stories to tell, not only about adaptation and the will to survive, but about the culture they live in and the dictates and repercussions of “place.”
Street Dogs, The Whys and What You Can Do
Debbie Jacobs, author, speaker, explorer and Certified Pet Dog Trainer is known to many through her excellent work with fearful, shy dogs, and her blog, Fearful Dogs. What is less known is her work in rescuing street dogs, “Satos”, over the past 15 years and the educational trips she conducts that include a trip to the Vieques Humane Society.
In our interview for Animal Cafe, Jacobs gives us a first-hand account of the problem of street dogs. Puppy mills from the US mainland supply pet shops on the island. Business people transferring out of Puerto Rico after a couple of years often leave their dogs behind to fend for themselves. The number of intact street dogs increase in this 80 degree, sandy beaches vacation spot where there may be enough food and water to survive and mate, but little hope of finding homes.
“Euthanasia” for street dogs can mean being thrown off a bridge, poisoned, or shot. Yet culture will out. Outsiders who want to come and help better get their diplomatic hats on. There is a strong sense of community ownership of street dogs, and even providing medical attention can be a problem. There are other ways and the last ten minutes of the interview gives you ideas of how you can help, even without spending money!
Oh, and the one exception where street dogs are not everywhere you look that I mentioned at the beginning? Jacobs tells it better than I could, so here’s the interview: