Thursday, June 12, 2014

Jamaica, Mon!

Sorry I have been so quiet lately! We just spent a week in Jamaica for a friend's was glorious :). We stayed in Negril and as we meandered about town, I couldn't help but notice all the 'stray' dogs. They made my heart hurt :(.

Two dogs roaming in Negril.
These dogs didn't really seem like traditional strays - they seemed to be pretty well fed and seemed to stay in certain areas. But I was curious, so I asked our taxi driver (who had driven us around on a few different occasions) how the Jamaican culture viewed pet dogs. He said that purebred dogs, like German Shepherds, Rottweilers, and Dobermans (those were the breeds he actually listed), were kept in houses and treated more like what we would experience in the US, but that the mongrel dogs you see on the street aren't treated quiet so well. They are generally fed okay as they get scraps and eat what they can catch but they rarely get veterinary care when injured or sick and are allowed to breed indiscriminately (just creating more overpopulation of stray dogs).

The whole time I was there I only two dogs on a leash - the rest were free to roam.

A dog rests in the shade with kids outside a gas station. I'm not sure if this was a stray dog or their dog.
Animal suffering is a worldwide problem, especially in third world countries, and is mostly related to human poverty - insufficient resources to care for animals, along with ignorance and indifference. Poverty plays a huge role in the plight of stray dogs in Jamaica. If you aren't getting enough to survive, it's hard to give enough to a mere animal. Thousands of street dogs are slowly eaten alive by mange, maggots, screw worms, and internal parasites. Some of these common diseases and parasites that are easily preventable are frequently transmitted to humans, especially children. Obviously, overpopulation of stray dogs is a public health hazard on multiple levels.

Dog bites also pose a potential risk, especially in the bigger cities with greater populations and in the mountains with low food resources (which encourage the formation of packs in order to survive). Dog packs can do severe damage to people and livestock :(.

Then there is always the welfare of the stray dogs themselves. They are at great risk of injury - vehicular injury, abuse by people, and injury by other dogs as they compete for food and mating. There are currently two main organizations in Jamaica set up to deal with the stray dog population - Jamaica Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals in Kingston and Animal House Jamaica in St. Ann (just outside of Ocho Rios). I wish I would have had time to visit either one of these organizations, if we ever make it back I am totally putting this on my to-do list and also bringing donations :).

A stray dog walking the beach. Photo: Animal House Jamaica, check them out on Facebook.
Our perception of animals determines how we treat them and whether they suffer under our care (or lack thereof). We need to encourage international efforts that focus on improving the human condition to also animal concerns because Healthcare means People Care + Animal Care + Earth Care. Everything is connected.

Have you visited a country with an overpopulation of stray dogs? How did it make you feel?


  1. My Talla came from a similar situation - she was a Mexican stray.

  2. Yes, in Mexico, just across the border from Yuma, Arizona. The stray dogs were in bad shape, always with a litter of pups on the ground. Made us feel extreme sadness. We tried to feed them when we visited and just a scratch behind the ear to let them know we cared.

  3. I went to Couples Swept Away in Negril for my anniversary a couple years ago. There was a pup living there and was being cared for by tourists but kicked and scared by the security and some employees. With the help of the Animal House near Ocho we were able to get her to vet and over to the U.S. She is now living in my house as a happy,loyal, loving American pet.