Loja Mayor José Castillo has enraged animal rights advocates by suggesting a draconian solution to the city’s high population of street dogs. “First, we collect them. Then we find a rational way to make them disappear,” he said last week on the city’s public television station.
Demonstrators have mounted protests in city parks against the mayor’s plan and animal adoption organizations in Cuenca are threatening a Cuenca to Loja march for the dogs.
Castillo said that the amount of dog poop on city streets and sidewalks had become intolerable. “We have no option but to act now,” he said. “I find it hypocritical that those who claim to be advocates for the dogs have no solution of their own. In their minds, the dogs have become the ‘untouchables’ in our society and should be off limits to public control.”
The mayor added that the dog advocates seem to care more about animals than people. “To them, it is fine to hit and injure a police officer trying to maintain public order, but it is a sin to hurt a dog.”
An off-the-record comment by a mayor’s office employee Friday further inflamed emotions, when he was quoted on social media as saying that street dogs would be required to dig their own graves before they are shot. The employee, who was not identified, said he meant the comment as a joke.
To suggestions that the city wait until an animal shelter is constructed, the mayor said that budgetary constraints have indefinitely delayed construction. “We cannot wait. Besides the sidewalk problem, the dogs pose health and safety issues that affect the entire community,” he said.
He added, “We do not have the facilities to house the animals and most of them would not be adopted if we did.”
The mayor said that under his plan, dogs will be picked up and housed in a temporary shelter where owners will have three days to claim them. After that, they will be euthanized.