Stray dogs in Chile
Spray as you go
The state orders a sterilisation of stray mutts
IT IS one of the first things that visitors to Santiago, the Chilean capital, ask: “Why are there so many dogs everywhere?”
Patricia Cocas, founder of ProAnimal Chile, an animal-rights group, reckons that some 180,000 stray hounds wander the city of six million people;
a further 80,000 are let out by their owners to roam as they please.
The area around the presidential palace is a favoured hangout.
Most mutts are harmless enough—Chile is free of rabies, which helps explain why they are tolerated.
But some attack passers-by or chase cars down Santiago's main thoroughfare, the Alameda, occasionally ripping tyres with their teeth.
The government is now taking action. In her state-of-the-union speech last month,
President Michelle Bachelet announced a national sterilisation programme for stray dogs
(the details are still to be fleshed out). A bill on responsible pet ownership is due to come before Congress this month.
It envisages tougher penalties for those who abuse or abandon their pets, and the establishment of a register of dangerous dogs.
Ms Bachelet is trying to make the pooches political, weaving them into a broader narrative about inequality.
Chile's cities need affordable veterinary centres where pets can be vaccinated and sterilised, she said in her speech.
“In our country wealthy people can do that, but people without money have no way of caring for their pets.”
But she insists there will be no cull of strays. For now, the mongrels on the lawns outside the palace where she works can sleep in peace.