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Getting stray dogs off the street is major focus of new law; construction of new animal shelter under consideration

Provincial health department officials plan to step up enforcement of a new law aimed at reducing the number of domestic animals roaming the streets. According the head of Azuay’s Dog1health and sanitation department, Gilma Serrano, the department will begin picking up stray dogs in coming weeks.

Serrano said that the new animal control program was developed in conjunction with the Municipality of Cuenca, the Ecuador Ministry of Agriculture and the National Police and has conducted a public information campaign about the new regulations since March. Information has been targeted at people who leave their pets unleashed.

In addition to picking up and euthanizing strays, the program is offering sterilization to pet owners in an effort to reduce the number of unwanted offspring

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According to Javier Espinoza, chair of Cuenca’s Committee for Environmental Management, a major objective is to raise public awareness for the proper treatment of pets, with an emphasis on neutering. The committee is also working on plans to construct an animal shelter. The committee’s plan will be presented to the cantonal council and mayor in June.

“This is not simply about enforcement, of eliminating unwanted dogs that walk our streets,” Espinoza said. “We want to reduce the amount of animal neglect we see in our community.”

Cuenca resident Jenny Speers, says she is “cautiously optimisitic” about the new law. “This is a huge step for Cuenca and my hope is that there will be the follow-through necessary to make it effective. I understand that, in a poor country like Ecuador, that people have to come first. On the other hand, how we treat our animals is usually a reflection of how we treat each other.”

Speers, a native of Canada who managed an animal shelter in suburban Montreal for 20, says Cuenca is in a good position to succeed with the new program. “Anyone who has traveled much in Latin America knows that the stray dog situation is not very bad in Cuenca. We don’t have the packs running wild like you have in Mexico, Panama and Nicaragua. Handling the situation should not be too difficult. She added: “The main ingredients for success in any animal control program, I think, are the shelter and an effective neutering program. And, of course, people who love animals.”