Struggling to feed families, Venezuelans abandon pets

Thu Sep 8, 2016 11:27am EDT
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By Carlos Garcia Rawlins and Girish Gupta

LOS TEQUES, Venezuela (Reuters) - Venezuelans struggling to feed their families, let alone their pets, during the country's deep economic crisis are increasingly abandoning emaciated dogs in streets, public parks and makeshift shelters because they no longer can afford to care for them.

At one dilapidated sanctuary in the hills outside the capital Caracas, hundreds of scrawny dogs bark and claw through wire mesh to scavenge for food in the streets and forest land nearby.

"The crisis has hit hard," said Maria Arteaga, 53, who began looking after stray dogs in her own home before founding the shelter in Los Teques, the capital of Miranda state.

"People are abandoning their dogs because they can't afford food and because they're leaving the country."

Every few hours, vehicles pull up and people hand over dogs, including pedigrees. Volunteers arrive daily to donate and help distribute food to the animals.

Though Arteaga does not have a formal register, she has seen an increase in the number of dogs arriving in recent months, with nine poodles dropped off just in the past two weeks.

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Suffering through a third year of recession, Venezuelans are experiencing shortages of food and medicine, and are finding salaries wrecked by triple-digit inflation.   Continued...

La China is pictured at the Famproa dogs shelter in Los Teques, Venezuela August 16, 2016. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins