There are countless stray cats and dogs in Tijuana, and animal control is done mostly by accidental roadkill or by people who kill animals for pleasure. Pet-ownership culture is completely different in a country that just recently started to adopt and evolve its laws on animal cruelty.
Some animal-killers in Tijuana have declared their crimes on social media, proudly posting pictures and videos of animal cruelty, which quickly prompts negative reactions.
Local animal lovers and NGOs, such as ProvidAnimal TJ, AVPCA, Dog Rescue Without Borders and Baja Dog Rescue, help by adopting, finding shelter, sterilizing, and educating people of proper animal care. However, machismo culture in Mexico deems it cruel to spay or neuter a pet, and that no matter how many strays are adopted, there will always be more. It is also part of the culture to let your animals roam freely outside in the neighborhood and for them to find their own way home.
I was crossing the street of Calle Segunda and Martínez (where the remodeling of Segunda begins) before midnight on Saturday, June 28. The late-night drivers were honking at a car that had stopped at the intersection. A driver saw a puppy crossing the street, jumped out of his car, picked it up and chucked the puppy to the side of the road. The puppy shrieked as he fell down a ditch. I heard the man murmur “oops” as he ran back to his car.
I looked straight ahead, trying to avoid the guilt one feels when seeing a stray and there's not much you can do about it. But puppy yelps made me look into the ditch. A tiny mongrel came out crying, and as soon as she saw me, she started wagging her tail rapidly. The puppy ran behind me and followed me for blocks to Tacos El Rey, where I fed her some of my carne asada.
She followed me to my apartment, where she couldn't climb up the first step. I had no choice but to give her temporary housing while I found her a different home.
“I was there last year, on the first march where we asked penalization against animal cruelty,” said Alejandra Molina, a local animal lover. “It got done, but there's no word about it or no one really knows you can actually report animal cruelty. There's now an association of animal-rights lawyers here in Tijuana.”
Molina was one of the first persons to share my pictures of the puppy on Facebook to help me find her the right home.
“People here see sterilization as a taboo. They believe the animals just get sad and gain weight if you fix them. But what they don't realize is that it makes them more sedentary, obedient and calm, and less aggressive and territorial. There are also a lot of people that don't sterilize because they rather breed their mascots and sell them for cheap on the street.”
The puppy had a lot of health issues and also shit all over the apartment, which neither my roommate nor my cat were happy about. The veterinarian down the street helped me get the puppy in better shape for free. People from both sides of the border have been supportive in finding her a good home. The puppy is currently in a different foster home with a friend of Alejandra who saw the shared picture and offered to take the pup from me. She will take care of the puppy until she is big enough to receive her vaccines so she can cross the border to a home in the USA.