Animal protection in Cuba: an urgent need


HAVANA, sept 14th  Within the approaches made by the population in the debates of the Constitution Project of  Cuba, we have heard more than one of the participants advocate for a law for the protection of animals,

something that, if achieved, would not only serve to impose just punishment to those who abuse them, but also contribute to the awareness of the responsibility that people acquire when adopting a pet.

What is needed is an effective law that protects the welfare and life of animals and curbs violence against them, violence that for many has already become a culture in the midst of the widespread loss of values ​​in our society.

A few days ago I witnessed a lamentable and grotesque scene: a fighting dog killed a neighbor’s kitten, and while she shouted and begged the owner to take it off, he watched the scene unperturbed. Only when the woman threatened to accuse him because he trained the dog to kill, he replied rudely: “He is in his yard, it was the cat that came”.

In those days I read in the Granma the sad story of Luna, a street dog that the neighbors of a community in Old Havana cared for and fed. One day he disappeared, and after two weeks a neighbor, Karla Llanes, found her lying in a corner, picked her up and took her home to heal her wounds.

“I could not do almost anything for Luna, she died the next day,” she told the journalist. With adhesive tape they had sealed his snout so he could not defend himself or hurt the attacker. His right front leg was undone by the cuts he had made so he could not run away, and he was never treated.Luna died victim of the savagery and greed of dog fighters, sadistic scourges of society that train dogs to kill (or die), with the purpose of earning money at the cost of suffering and the agony of innocent creatures.

The elaboration and implementation of truly effective laws is already necessary, because although in Cuba there are weak legal mechanisms to penalize dogfights, they only apply if they are caught in flagrante and if it can be proven that there is money involved (decree 141/1988, Article 1: “It contravenes public order and will be imposed the fine and other measures to which it takes part in any kind of game of chance, without having the status of banker, collector or promoter, with the purpose of profiting” ).

Or what is the same: in our country, to this day, you can enjoy the abominable spectacle of seeing dogs tearing apart, as long as you do it for pleasure and not for money.

According to data from the Department of Hygiene and Epidemiology, there are around 200,000 stray dogs that were abandoned by their owners. Some claim not to have time to attend to them; others take them for embellishment or caprice and then get bored, and there are those who throw them out when they get sick. These animals roam the streets in search of food and a place to shelter from the cold and rain. Only a lucky few find refuge.

To avoid the proliferation of this phenomenon, the Cuban Association for the Protection of Animals and Plants (Aniplant) performs mass sterilizations. However, this measure is insufficient. In addition to a protection law, the will of the government to create shelters where the abandoned creatures receive the proper treatment and the care and affection they deserve is also essential. Until now they can only hope to not be caught by the cruel program of Zoonoses, which consists of capturing and killing in rather inhumane ways.

But in Cuba cruelty to animals is not remotely limited to dogs. Draft animals, laboratory animals, cockfights, zoos without resources, are just some of the situations to correct. For the time being, although a law that penalizes aggressions and typifies sanctions will not eliminate the sadism, cruelty and brutality rooted in so many Cubans, it would be the indispensable beginning. In order to be better people, and to build a better society from now on, let us all remember – and adopt – that Marti teaching according to which the quality of a society can be measured by the way it treats its animals.