By Fabiola Sanchez
7 September 2016

CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) – Carlos Parra used to love waking up to see his pet albino boxer, Nina. Now, seeing her skeletal body on the floor next to his bed has become a daily reminder of the economic crisis engulfing Venezuela.

His other dog’s thick fur barely hides her ribcage as Parra struggles to feed his pets after losing his job at a shoe store.

“It’s terrible to sit and eat, see them watching me with hunger, and not be able to do anything,” said the 30-year-old.

As Venezuela’s economic crunch worsens, food shortages and rising poverty are forcing once middle-class Venezuelans to do the unthinkable: let their pets starve or abandon them in the streets.

No figures are available, but activists and veterinarians say they are seeing a growing number of dogs and cats abandoned at parks, shelters, and private clinics.

In Caracas it has become common to see purebred dogs rummaging in the trash or lying outdoors, filthy and gaunt, in posh neighborhoods.

Emaciated dogs crowd the Funasissi animal shelter in Caracas, Venezuela, 7 September 2016. Starving dogs and cats are packing into makeshift shelters and scavenging the streets of Venezuela as its recession continues. Food prices have skyrocketed throughout the country, and dog food now costs nearly double what it does in the U.S. Photo: Reuters

The animal protection and control center in the capital’s Baruta neighborhood saw as many as 10 animals abandoned each day this summer, head veterinarian Russer Rios said. Up to about a year ago there were almost none.

“Now people just leave them here because they can’t take care of them,” Rios said.

Shelters are running classes teaching pet owners to look for food substitutes in the hopes of helping them maintain their pets through the crisis. At one private shelter in the working-class Caracas neighborhood of El Junquito, a popular alternative for dogs that would never have been considered in better times is chickenfeed.

“We have to give it to them because there’s nothing else,” Katty Quintas, a part owner of the Funasissi shelter, said as three skinny cats looked on hungrily from the top of a refrigerator. The shelter is now home to more than 200 cats and dogs.

One of the country’s largest animal shelters is run by Mission Nevado, a government program set up by socialist President Nicolas Maduro and named in honor of independence hero Simon Bolivar’s four-legged sidekick, dubbed “Nevado” for its white, snow-like fur. Program veterinarian Angel Mancilla said the shelter, which currently houses about 100 cats and dogs, has collapsed under the influx.

“We’re crying every day. You leave each day feeling traumatized,” Mancilla said. [more]

Venezuela pets go hungry as economic crisis deepens



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