The National Institute of Statistics and Geography (Inegi) reported that 6 out of 10 Mexican households have an animal accompanying the family, but they do not always keep them in the best conditions, therefore, specialists from the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine and Zootechnics of the UNAM, refer to responsible pet ownership in big cities.

It also depends on my family nucleus, my social and work activities, my economic capacity, the size and type of house, the type of family, and many factors," said Itzcóatl Maldonado, UNAM wildlife expert. Dogs and cats are the pets most sought after by people; however, in a city like Mexico City, before adopting or acquiring one of these animals, it is important to understand that they require time and care.

"We can have a Chihuahua, we can have a Labrador, we can have a bulldog, the point is what we do with it, that it has physical activity according to the breed if I have a Labrador it will have to go out for an hour, hour and a half of daily exercise, if I have a bulldog, half an hour will be enough", said Rodrigo Suárez Groult, a specialist in dogs and cats, UNAM.

"The rabbit is the most popular small mammal other than dogs and cats, currently, as a companion animal, I would dare to say that in our country and most probably worldwide. We could visualize rodents, for example, guinea pigs, rats, mice, hamsters, herps, which are animals that nobody is going to capture or extract from the wild and that can adapt," added Itzcóatl Maldonado. Experts assure that, in our country, a general animal welfare law is still pending, something that has been worked on for decades and is already in the legislative debate.

"The focus of this initiative is following what the OIE is recommending and promotes the responsible use of animals, in favor of society and to establish a regime of responsibility of the owners. It does not enter into the field of granting rights to animals, but rather promotes responsible ownership," said Francisco Galindo, researcher, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, UNAM.

Companion animals: benefits and drawbacks

According to various research studies, companion animal ownership, a phenomenon that is on the rise and already involves 30% of families, can have health benefits for people. However, coexistence in cities is not always easy and animals can also cause discomfort to third parties.

The origins of the relationship between animals and people are lost in antiquity. This bond began when humans began to breed and select animals that they employed to ensure their survival by using them for food and also for utilitarian purposes. However, throughout human civilization, only dogs and cats have had the freedom to enter our homes without being tied up or locked up, and have been linked to humans by bonds of affection.

The fact of having to share the scarce public spaces of highly populated cities with pets can also generate conflicts. It is necessary to integrate them in a balanced way in our dense urban structure and try to minimize the conflicts they may generate by finding solutions that allow a harmonious coexistence between all segments of the population. This integration poses a challenge in the planning of cities and in the policy to be adopted about the animals that live in them. For this reason, different programs and actions have been developed by the administrations to prevent and deal with citizen conflicts while promoting civic attitudes.

Positive aspects from a social perspective

The inhabitants of large cities can sometimes perceive the urban environment as a cold and hostile environment due to the rapid demographic development and the reduction of public spaces. The presence of animals can favor, in a certain way, the approach to the natural environment and encourage respect for nature in the men and women who live there. The conclusions of various research studies carried out by scientists from different disciplines lead to the conclusion that pet ownership is probably beneficial for people from a health point of view.

Most of the studies carried out in Australia, the United Kingdom, Germany, and the United States - countries with a long tradition and experience of the beneficial effects of pet ownership - indicate that people who live with pets improve their self-esteem, reduce stress, and increase their psychological well-being, among other benefits. The local administration, competent in this matter, does not lose sight of the fact that the benefits provided by pets will be increasingly relevant in cities.

Although these studies indicate that animal ownership can be beneficial to health, it is necessary to take into account that not all families necessarily have a positive experience with animals and that not all people like animals. It is necessary to make sure that the type of animal chosen fits the type of life of each person or family, their habits, experiences, and expectations. It should not be forgotten that animals are dependent on people and require a lot of care and attention.

Inconveniences in the urban environment

Despite the benefits of pet ownership, we cannot forget that coexistence in cities is not always easy and that animals can also cause serious inconvenience to third parties in our urban environment. Having to share public spaces in cities with animals can create distrust in segments of the population that perceive them as an obstacle to coexistence. One of the most relevant issues related to the non-civic attitudes of citizens is the abandonment of animals.

The health and social risks posed by abandoned animals, especially if they increase considerably in number, are diverse. In terms of public health, these animals lack the minimum essential care and can become carriers of transmissible diseases. However, most of these diseases are only transmitted between the same species and cases of zoonoses transmitted directly from animals to humans are rare.

On the other hand, abandoned animals roaming freely on public roads can cause traffic accidents or incidents of aggression towards people or other animals. To prevent this, some cities provide a 24-hour service for the collection of lost, abandoned, or injured dogs and cats, including a veterinary ambulance. Among the undesirable effects that derive from the large presence of pets in the city, the following also stand out.

The increased presence of excrement in public spaces, which affects public hygiene and environmental quality.

Aggressive dog behavior resulting from inadequate education.

Conflicts related to the misuse of public spaces, especially in green areas and playgrounds.

Scattering of garbage on public streets.

Excessive barking and other behaviors that disturb neighbors.

Multifaceted intervention

These inconveniences come mainly from the not very civic attitudes of some citizens. In this context, the intervention of the City Council to avoid conflict between the coexistence of pets and people can be decisive in balancing and regulating the social inconveniences that can be generated. To this end, it acts from four different but complementary facets: regulation, education, provision of equipment, and provision of services. The purpose of the measures and actions taken is to allow coexistence between owners and non-owners in a way that is pleasant for everyone and also for the animals themselves.

However, it is not easy to balance the various conflicting private interests: animal owners versus non-owners. To facilitate harmonious coexistence, citizens must understand the importance of maintaining minimum standards of behavior that allow coexistence based on respect for others, public objects, and the urban environment. If animals are to have an even more prominent place in the cities of the future then their regulation cannot be left to chance. As a complement to public awareness and education activities, it is necessary to implement health and social regulations, as well as to enforce these regulations.

Citizen participation mechanisms

Initiatives aimed at promoting responsible dog ownership are enriched if they have been participated in and shared by the different social agents of the municipality. For this reason, the participation and active collaboration of citizens to achieve its objectives are encouraged. Various mechanisms are offered in many cities to establish a nexus and a meeting point between the different sectors of society involved in animal-related issues in the city.