Typical for a third world country, a surplus of abandoned, loose, and stray animals in Nicaragua is a common and sad sight.
You won’t be here long before you notice all the dogs in the streets. What might surprise you, is a majority of these four-legged friends have owners.
Most Nicaraguans believe in a more “free-range” lifestyle for their pets
A lot of dogs have to fend for themselves with most of their meals coming from trash cans or scraps from the table. Many dogs are skinny, not only lacking in food, but also in proper healthcare.
“Tick-Borne Diseases” run rampant in Nicaragua and are the leading cause of death in dogs, according to a local vet here in San Juan del Sur.
Cats are low on the animal totem pole in Nicaragua. In fact, cat ownership is a new concept here. Many Nicaraguans find them to be dirty pests, who creep into homes and steal food.
They are the brunt of many superstitions, too. Common beliefs are cats can pass venereal diseases to humans, or rubbing your eyes after touching a cat can make you go blind.
Cats are rapid breeders which makes them less desirable and more of a problem.
One downside to the free-range lifestyle is that Nicaragua is literally is an animal breeding ground. You can often, um, see this breeding in action as you pass by on the street. Neutering your pet has not been part of the culture in the past.
Only in recent years has groups like World Vets held spay/neuter clinics in Nicaragua and educated people on proper pet care.
The average wage in Managua is $420 per month, and lower for those outside the capital. Veterinary care is expensive for the typical Nicaraguan family. Also, most families are lucky if they own a single motorcycle, so even if they have the money, getting their pet to a veterinarian is close to impossible.
As a gringo, it is not uncommon to receive a litter of kittens as a “gift”
That is to say, you come home to find a litter of kittens inhabiting your property. It is also common to discover a box of tiny kittens tossed out next to the trash, left to starve to death.
For most gringos, this is horrific so we take in the tiny souls, searching for kitten bottles and formula. Then once old enough we try to find forever homes for our foster babies. This is such a common occurrence in San Juan del Sur, there is now a Facebook page dedicated to this cause.
Comunidad Perros de San Juan del Sur is a group devoted to helping sick and hungry dogs on the streets in town. They make and sell cookies to raise funds for this purpose and post stories on their Facebook page. They also do presentations in the schools to help educate the community through the children.
World Vets are making a real impact in Granada and San Juan del Sur. Not only do they have a permanent clinic in Granada for free spay and neuter, but they also run several pop-up clinics a year.
Helping Stray Animals In Nicaragua With World Vets
I had the honor of volunteering at their 3-day clinics and have seen over 80 pets neutered in one day. They also run a consultation table at these events and each animal gets tick/flea medication. The last clinic I volunteered at, a local dog got some much-needed surgery after being run over months prior.
Animal overpopulation is a heart-wrenching problem here in Nicaragua. It will take time before locals understand this problem is preventable.
With few humane society type places in Nicaragua, there is nowhere to tuck away the issue and hide it from our daily life. The burden lands on those of us with a soft spot for our furry friends.
For one woman here with 10 dogs and 35 cats, this burden can be overwhelming.
Still, it is important not to judge and better to understand local circumstances. Only from this place, we can affect change.
- The Fine Art Of Rescuing Street Dogs In Costa Rica
- Ten Things Expats Should Know Before Bringing A Dog To Costa Rica
Jenna Reid moved to San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua with her husband and two kids in March 2015. She helps her husband operate a website development company and she enjoys freelance writing. Her personal blog is The 1 Less Traveled By.