We believe Education is the answer necessary to change the culture regarding humane treatment of animals.
Our Animal Appreciation class teaches primary and secondary children in Baja how to be responsible pet owners. Animals and kids go together naturally, but how they treat those animals is learned behavior. Children learn by example both good and bad. Unfortunately, in Baja role models are few and far between which makes our program that much more a necessity.
It is a misconception to believe that all Mexicans are consciously mean to animals. Many times people care about their pets but do not have the knowledge or resources to solve common problems our pets encounter such as over-population, Parvo, Distemper, worms, mange, or flea/tick control.
– A past Mayor of Rosarito shared with me that he didn’t even see the strays on the street (callejeros) anymore because his whole life they have always been there on the streets, and somewhere along the way he forgot they were living beings that experienced hunger, pain, and discomfort. Naturally empathic to helpless animals, children are soon indoctrinated by their parents not to encourage, touch, or even look at stray animals. It is not because the parents are soulless or evil but most likely because they cannot afford the risk that the children could get bitten or catch a disease from the strays so avoidance was the only solution. The average salary of $12 dollars a day doesn’t leave much room for unexpected medical expenses for children or animals in the budget.
– Often out of their own ignorance many adults model incorrect behavior based on misinformation, and poor advice. Instead of modern easily obtainable treatments they often resort to old tribal knowledge which has no basis in fact.
It is common local knowledge that the solution to treat mange is to cover the animal in old dirty car oil and then take the dog to the ocean and scrub it down and repeat as necessary. Surprisingly, if it doesn’t kill an already compromised animal it can sometimes work because the oil suffocates the mites and the salt scrub from the ocean cleans off the dead and infected skin and aids in future healing. I do not know where the idea of using oil came from but it was probably an accident and the ocean was selected only as a means to keep the oily mess out of the owner’s yard!
Another eye opener occurred several years ago when I met an elderly woman who was very upset because even though she bathed her 15 dogs daily they still had fleas. She did not understand that her yard and all the junk in it created a natural breeding ground for fleas and ticks. Fumigation was needed in order to break the cycle. She was relieved to realize the solution was affordable and easy. Now she shares that info with her neighbors.
– One of our teenage volunteers called me in tears because her 8 month old puppy was sick and she couldn’t afford a Vet. We sent her to a BCSNF Vet at no cost, but were saddened to hear that the puppy had contracted Distemper and soon died. The teenager was heartbroken and when I asked about shots she said yes he had been vaccinated but it turned out he had actually only received the free rabies shot offered by the State and was not immunized against Parvo or Distemper. Now that she has the knowledge, I can guarantee all of her future pets will be fully immunized.
– Another heartbreaking example for me was a poor woman that stopped at our mobile neighborhood spay/neuter clinic out of curiosity and quietly whispered in Spanish ‘This is possible? No more babies?’. I could only imagine how many litters she has had to witness… starving, sick, and dying while not even aware she could do something to stop the suffering. She later returned with a Mom, four (4) small pups and a huge smile!
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