Written for Daily Hive by Kim Bowie, independent publicist and animal rights activist based in Vancouver, BC and San Jose del Cabo/Puerto Vallarta, Mexico.
As Canadians, we love to show our love for animals on social media. #AdoptDontShop is a hashtag being used for the adoption vs. pet buying movement, and it’s having some really positive effects in terms of social sharing and reaching out to organizations – and eventually homes – for animals in need .
But a hashtag or a “like” on social media isn’t enough to make meaningful changes to those adorable faces you see on Instagram. There are ways to help, and I promise they will mean more to you than your number of likes.
Mexico is not a paradise for animals
Fun fact: my first word was “dog”. Less fun fact: a estimated at 70% All 18 to 20 million dogs in Mexico are street dogs. This represents approximately 12.6 million stray dogs. Living in Mexico for two and a half years, I went from loudly encouraging the rescue and neutering of pets to recently caring for a brother and sister duo living next door, which were not “repaired”, and their owner clearly had no intention of doing so. I feared they would lead to another group (or more) of puppies who would never have a home or regular vet care, and would become some of the all-too-familiar bodies scattered along the sides of the highways.
We stepped in and found a free sterilization group through social media. We safely neutered and neutered the male and female, and cared for them.
Our rescue pit bull mix, Rígo, was so patient and loving with them, even as they invaded his space, took over his bed, and chewed on his face and ears. Yet people think pit bulls are vicious!
When returning them to their owner, the latter rejected and abandoned them. Thus began my first-hand journey to understand just how dire the situation is for stray animals in Mexico and how desperately overcrowded animal rescue organizations are in urgent need of support.
The stray dog cycle will repeat itself without education or accessibility
Mexico has one of the highest rates of street dogs in the world and is home to the largest stray dog population in Latin America. With approximately 500,000 abandoned dogs per year, it is an ongoing crisis. Without education, accessibility, and a change in pet owners‘ attitudes and behaviors, this will continue to snowball. According to the reproductive pyramid found in the Guide to Companion Animals for Responsible Owners – which was created by the National Autonomous University of Mexico – unspayed females can produce 67,000 dogs or 420,000 cats in six years, with a huge proportion (70%) of these animals becoming street dogs and cats.
Help is out there – but you have to have the luxury of having the time to find it
There are free spaying clinics run by donors and sponsored by veterinarians and private pet-loving businesses. The Puerto Vallarta SPCA doesn’t even have a phone number listed, and when I managed to reach someone from another organization, Las Animas Animal Rescue, they were shocked that I could find a phone number. She told me that the situation at shelters is so bad that most are avoiding direct contact for fear animals will be dropped off at already overcrowded and struggling shelters.
Most shelters are randomly organized via Facebook and WhatsApp, and it was by contacting another animal lover in Vancouver that I managed to get straight to Loved At Last Dog Rescue. They were incredibly helpful, but couldn’t help bringing the dogs to Vancouver, and only if I had already found homes for them. We would have liked to keep both rescues, but knew we couldn’t responsibly give them the life they deserved, and my husband’s sudden move made time extremely tight.
The need is great and the desire to help is there – the logistics and resources are not.
How COVID-19 made the problem worse
Abandoned pet rates have skyrocketed as many “COVID pets” taken in company have been abandoned. The waiting list for every organization I spoke to was huge, largely due to abandoned COVID pets with the return to the office.
The crisis in Canada has worsened due to Canada’s New Laws banning dogs imported from countries known to be at high risk of rabies. Housing those animals lucky enough to escape from the streets is another challenge, as few buildings in Vancouver allow rental pets. I hope The change long promised by Vancouver City Council to ban landlords to discriminate against tenants with pets will happen with the new mayor of Vancouver, but time will tell.
#AdoptDontShop is part of the solution
Adopting, instead of buying pets, is extremely important, even if the initial movement was not intended to attack responsible breeders, of which there are many. The #AdoptDontShop hashtag is found to be effective for engaging with a large audience who may be able to help.
I tagged #AdoptDontShop in every post I made on my quest to find homes for the dogs we rescued, with a link to a google folder I had done with their tragic origin stories and many heartwarming images. Social media certainly helped, but it wasn’t the ultimate – or only – solution.
There are many reputable, big-hearted, action-oriented and solution-oriented organizations, such as those based in British Columbia. Loved At Last Dog Rescue; Fur Baes, which rescues dogs from countries like Qatar and focuses on flying buddies to bring dogs to safe countries; registered charity PEACE (Persons ensuring the protection of animals); K9 Defenders in Manitoba; Forever freed; and many others are doing what they can to get animals out of dangerous places and circumstances and into loving homes. They desperately need volunteers, donations, foster homes and flight buddies.
What is a “flight buddy”?
A “flight buddy” is someone who volunteers to carry a pet as part of their checked baggage (depending on the size of the dog) or with them as carry-on baggage. Organizations like LAPD and Fur Baes advertise — on social media and their website — the importance of this program, and it’s an essential and rewarding addition to meaningful travel memories.
According finally lovedserving Vancouver and Seattle, “There are no additional costs or organization, as the local airport coordinator of the refuge takes care of all the planning and pays all the additional costs associated with adding an extra piece of luggage (the dog crate) to your ticket.”
Now that flights, especially to tropical destinations, such as Mexico, are more frequent, the more people know about fellow flight attendants, the more pets can be airlifted to new loving homes. To learn more about how to volunteer, please visit Loved At Last Dog Rescue Where Fur Baes.
Ways to make passive change in animal welfare
- Donate to help provide free or cheap sterilization opportunitiesand communicate them en masse.
- Volunteer be a flight buddy. If you are visiting a sunny place, consider volunteering as a flight buddy and help bring an animal to Vancouver, Seattle or elsewhere. You don’t *need* those tourist trinkets, save a suitcase spot for an animal’s chance at a new life.
- Speak out about changing the laws for pet owners who need affordable housing for themselves and their pets. For many, having a pet is more than just a fondness for pets, it can be a safety consideration or an aid to mental or physical health.
- Stop buying purebred and designer dogs – they are often prone to genetic health issues and they perpetuate the cycle of too many dogs, too few homes.
- Take the time to raise your pet to be a welcome member of society; if people see well-behaved pets, their attitudes may change.
- Do NOT give pets as gifts, whether it’s Christmas, Hanukkah, Valentine’s Day, a birthday, or any holiday. Pets are long-lived and are a lifetime commitment. A pet is not a gift, even if it is a “free” rescue, it will still require time, patience and regular and expensive medical care, much like a dependent human.
- You might also like:
- ‘She got scared’: Rescue dog found after search in Surrey (PHOTOS)
- ‘He Doesn’t Give AF’: Meet Vancouver Good Boy Pong the Turtle (PHOTOS/VIDEO)
A pet is a gift for life and a commitment
With the winter holidays approaching, this last point is essential to return home: having a pet is a pleasure, but it is also a huge responsibility. A well-behaved pet needs attention, ongoing medical care, exercise, love, and planning.
If you are really determined to add an animal to your life, choose those that need to be adopted. You will never find a more faithful, grateful and loving companion. And keep using the #AdoptDontShop hashtag – it’s a movement, and a significant movement, just make sure there’s action behind these social posts.
And if you’re wondering, Queso and Cabra – the two puppies we adopted – are thriving, happy and healthy, and their new owner is as in love with them as they are with him and his family. .