Animal Welfare in Latin America

Much of our Latin American voyage has been fascinatingly, breathtakingly beautiful, but there are a few things we saw that broke our hearts. One is the living conditions of animals in nearly every country we’ve visited. When the people themselves are struggling to eke out an existence, animals get bumped down on the priority list or are neglected altogether. Sometimes, they are pointedly abused. We understand that the closer people in these countries move towards greater economic, environmental, and social success, the closer stray domesticated or wild imprisoned animals come to a chance for a happy life. You might remember our photos of Gumbo the monkey at Jaguar Paw in Belize, the dolphins at Anthony’s Key in Roatan, or Buttercup the sloth in Costa Rica. These are the bright spots of our trip–Latin American organizations that are setting a positive example by treating animals humanely. Everything was not, unfortunately, all sweetness and light:

We saw skinny, mangy dogs in every country completely ignored or kicked away by children and adults. In the countryside and the cities, we found sickly monkeys, goats, dogs, chickens, pigs, and donkeys tied by their necks to trees with no more than a couple feet of give on the rope. Ferral cats were everywhere, and like the dogs, they all exhibited symptoms of severe skin and eye disease and malnourishment. Some dogs and cats would come to us when offered food or love, but most shrank away in fear.  Animals born to be companions were hurting, and animals born to roam the wild were tied up. The worst of it? Tourists–mostly American–pay to keep wild animals in their obvious misery. A few dollars for a photo opportunity or a chance to pet a wild or exotic animal, and in return that animal is caged and used for income. Upon death it is replaced with another…and the cycle continues.

This problem is not unique to the Caribbean or Latin America, and animal welfare organizations exist there like they do here–but fewer, with much less funding and almost no public support. See World Animal Net’s Country Directory for contact information. Animal welfare issues are a worldwide problem, and several international organizations are working to improve the situation by promoting awareness and supporting local groups in each region of the world that work to make a difference:

Words cannot do justice to what we saw, but maybe the above photographs will help you to see through our eyes on the trip.

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  1. Posted June 10, 2009 at 8:02 am | Permalink

    Thank you for such a sensitive and accurate picture of our problems in the Caribbean and Latin America. As the founder and operator of The Animal House Jamaica I can vouch for the accuracy of your comments and the great need for help to continue our work for the animals. Not only do we not get any consistent funding but we operate under extreme circumstances such as five hurricanes in only fur years (we have mostly got beyond the damage from those storms but it was very difficult), and, at the moment, no light or water due to a switch over in utility companies and problems with the transition.

    Kindest regards to you and thanks again for the article.

  2. Posted June 10, 2009 at 8:05 am | Permalink

    I forgot to add that we have 150 animals a any given time, so you can imagine the problems we are facing with over 100 dogs and no water.

  3. Posted June 10, 2009 at 12:03 pm | Permalink

    Maureen, thanks so much for your comments. We wish you the very best–it’s amazing to hear about what your organization is accomplishing for the animals of Jamaica despite such terrible conditions and lack of public support. Kindest regards to you as well! To support Maureen’s organization, visit!

  4. Posted June 11, 2009 at 2:13 pm | Permalink

    Thank you, Shannon, for the posting of our website. There is a bit of hope on the horizon re our water situation, a government minister has asked that the companies involved meet with us with a view to finding a solution. Meeting is scheduled for next Tuesday. I am optimistic:)

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