Dog neutering stepped up after killings

2013-01-11 12:02
A puppy that was caught near the site of four fatal maulings sits inside a cage at a city dog pound in Mexico City. (Dario Lopez-Mills, AP)

A puppy that was caught near the site of four fatal maulings sits inside a cage at a city dog pound in Mexico City. (Dario Lopez-Mills, AP)

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Mexico City - Hundreds of Mexico City residents brought poodles, labradors and chihuahuas to mobile sterilisation units on Thursday as the city stepped up a campaign to reduce the number of street dogs after a string of deadly attacks.

The capital renewed calls for residents to spay or neuter their pets after prosecutors said stray dogs mauled four people to death, and perhaps a fifth victim, in a city park in the past two weeks.

The killings have shocked many in the capital, home to 1.2 million dogs, including tens of thousands of stray dogs that roam free.

Animal rights activists have voiced doubts that the dogs were to blame in a country torn by runaway crime, but prosecutors insist that only canines could have caused such carnage, with bones exposed and body parts bitten off.

Animal control officers rounded up 54 dogs from the park in the borough of Iztapalapa this week after the mutilated bodies of a woman and her baby as well as a teenage couple were found. Prosecutors suspect that a fifth person, a 15-year-old girl, was the first victim back on 16 December.

Procedure

Prosecutors are conducting DNA tests to find the culprits but they say the dogs will be handed to animal rights organisations.

Hoping to control the animal population, the city brought 25 mobile surgical units to a soccer pitch in the impoverished Golondrinas district, where dog and cat owners clutched their pets as they took them in for the free 40-minute procedure.

A lab puppy barked at a cocker spaniel while a poodle feeling the effects of anaesthesia vomited on the artificial turf. A veterinarian reassured people under a tent that their beloved pets would be okay.

The mobile units are part of a permanent campaign called "Be a Responsible Owner" to convince residents to sterilise their dogs, but city officials said they were intensifying the programme following the deadly dog attacks. The sterilisation program will focus in areas with high dog populations.

Maricarmen Zamora, 23, and Yenifer Moreno, 17, brought three of their five female dogs to be spayed.

"There are already a lot of abandoned and mistreated dogs and we don't want to see more," said Zamora, holding the leash of two-month-old lab Candy.

Doubts

But like many pet owners in this city, where people either love dogs or throw them in the street, the pair doubted that man's best friend could murder people.

"A dog cannot make wounds of that magnitude," Moreno said as her two-year-old poodle Kimba dozed off from anaesthesia before going under the knife.

But one of the city veterinarians, Carlos Munguia, said it was possible for hungry feral dogs to kill a person.

"A pack of abandoned dogs always works as a team like lions or wild dogs," he said.

The city's health chief, Armando Ahued Ortega, said 11 511 people were bitten by dogs last year, with at least 70 cases of people who needed reconstructive surgery.

More than 1.2 million dogs live in Mexico City, including 127 000 who are abandoned, he said. Around nine million people live in the capital plus 11 million more in the greater metropolitan area.

"We are going to all boroughs and all areas with large numbers of dogs to prevent the reproduction of animals and that people abandon them," Ortega said.

"We have found boxes with four, five, six puppies that were thrown in the street," the official said. "And later the dogs roam the street and bite people."

Read more on:    mexico  |  animals
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