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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