Venezuela pet shops, like supermarkets, struggle to stock shelves
By Deisy Buitrago
CARACAS (Reuters) - Venezuelan pet shops are struggling to stock shelves with food and medicine due to economic crisis, forcing dog and cat owners to stretch feed and police to ration food for canine units.
Shoppers already face long supermarket lines for staples like corn flour and toilet paper as the combination of falling oil prices and a decaying state-led economic model has left the OPEC nation with chronic product shortages.
Pet owners are facing the same problems because feed manufacturers have had to slow or halt operations for lack of dollars to import raw materials such as white corn and soy.
"I only have two or three kilos (of dog food) left," said Maura Morales, 41, as she searched Caracas pet store Don Perro for food for her dog Milo. "If I can't find more, I'll give him rice and carrots."
The police force of Miranda state is rationing food for dogs that are trained to protect officers and sniff out guns and drugs, according to police chief Francisco Escalona.
Homemade pet foods made from chicken or beef are not practical alternatives because those meats are in short supply or prohibitively expensive to use as animal feed.
The Venezuelan division of Purina, owned by Swiss food giant Nestle, says it has reduced the variety of pet food products it offers to maximize its scarce raw materials and continue supplying the market.
The company said its local production has returned to full capacity after raw materials shortages forced it to slow output several months back, which at the time left pet store shelves bare. Continued...