Lack of responsibility in dog care prevails

Abandoning them on public roads causes traffic problems, and aggression and impacts ecosystems, and other species. World Dog Day is commemorated on July 21.

Lack of responsibility in dog care prevails
Prevalence of lack of responsibility in dog care. Photo: UNAM

At present, some consider dogs a public health problem, due to the excessive growth of their population and the fact that many of them are homeless, says Ylenia Márquez Peña, an academic at the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine and Zootechnics (FMVZ) of the UNAM.

At the end of last year, the National Institute of Statistics and Geography (INEGI) announced that in our country there are 25 million homes in which 80 million pets live, 43.8 million of them, that is, 57 percent, are dogs. The first National Survey of Self-Reported Welfare 2021 of that organism, also refers that in these homes there are 16.2 million felines and 20 million other small species.

The domestic dog -Canis lupus, familiaris- was perhaps the first animal species that humans domesticated 135,000 years ago and its company has been so useful and appreciated that it has followed it almost everywhere it has gone: to outer space, to the poles and even to the desert, says the university professor.

Its domestication, she adds in an interview, meant the association of two species to survive in hostile environments. Initially, the dog served as a protector of man and his family, as well as his livestock; later it helped him to contain pests that could damage his crops and in hunting. Today its main function is to be a companion.

"Unfortunately, we humans have not learned from their dedication because we abandon them at the first opportunity, instead of making an effort to maintain this commitment that the dog has already made to us. Once they give us their trust, their faith, their love, they will never take it back," says the head of Emergency and Intensive Care at the UNAM Veterinary Specialties Hospital.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, we have seen how they have been of great emotional support for human beings so that they can withstand adverse circumstances.

Although we recognize their loyalty with phrases such as 'being faithful as a dog', we have failed them, insists the expert, especially in the last stage of their lives, when they require more care and devotion. Therefore, on World Dog Day -to be commemorated on July 21- the expert calls to reflect on the abandonment or lack of care that we as a society have with this species, which we call "our best friend".

Friends...on the street

This problem is caused by humans themselves, who abandon them, allowing them to reproduce without control: "In 2015 it was estimated that there were approximately 23 million dogs in the country, but only 30 percent of them had homes; the other 70 percent were in a street situation", he remarks.

Their permanence on public roads generates road conflicts, and aggressions, and even impacts the existence of other species and ecosystems. Their waste is also a means of transmitting diseases. "There are street dogs that can recover their behavior similar to that of the wolf, that is to say, be feral - exotic species", indicates the university expert.

Breeds, to taste?

According to the Federación Canofila Internacional, there are 355 breeds of dogs and they are divided into 10 groups: shepherd dogs and cattle dogs; pinscher and schnauzer; terriers; teckels; spitz and primitive dogs; hounds and tracking dogs; pointers; hunting and water retrievers; and companion dogs and sighthounds.

Márquez Peña explains that the breeds emerged with the objective of breeding animals resistant to different environments. However, nowadays, combinations have been generated to create breeds to the aesthetic taste of human beings, but unfortunately, they have caused malformations and diseases for their whole life.

"There are flat dogs such as pugs and English bulldogs, which, just because of fashion, have generated this flattening associated with a malformation of their upper respiratory tract", she refers.

The specialist pronounced to put an end to the "mass production markets of animals with bad genetic designs". One way to do this is to decide to adopt a homeless animal, instead of buying it. "The loyalty and affection they give us are independent of breeds and colors".

Responsible owners

To do so, it is essential to meet their basic needs such as providing them with shelter, food, medical supervision, and allowing them to express their behavior naturally, bark, play, and go for a walk.

"They should be taken for walks on a leash. This allows us to maintain control, prevents them from attacking other animals, injuring people or causing accidents," she says.

There is also a community responsibility that involves keeping an eye on them, and not allowing them to roam on public roads to prevent them from evacuating into the street and reproducing uncontrollably.

In addition, they must be sterilized because "when we remove ovaries or testicles, we remove all this hormonal stimulus, they stop having this reproductive need to go into heat or perceive females in heat".