The skyrocketing cost of dog food along with new rules on its importation into Mexico have led animal advocates in Tijuana to warn of a new wave of canines abandoned in the street, adding to the 200–250 dogs already put to death each week at the municipal dog pound.
In the current economic climate, dog owners are likely to dump their pets on the streets as they discover they are unable to pay for the cost of their upkeep, Sergio Iván Márquez Gutiérrez of the non-profit group ProvidAnimal told the Baja California daily El Sol de Tijuana in an interview published November 23.
Márquez cited two factors for the expected increase in abandoned pets: the January 1 increase in the sales tax to 16 percent and a customs regulation in effect since October that limits the amount of dog food that can be brought into Mexico (one bag of 42 pounds or less per car) and the importation of dog food that contains beef is prohibited.
Currently, dog owners do not pay any sales tax on dog food, said Márquez. After December 31, he estimated, the cost of a bag of dog food in Tijuana will be more than double what is paid in San Diego.
The official reason cited by the government for the prohibition on beef-based dog food is fear of mad-cow disease, but Márquez discounted the government line as a pretext to force Bajacalifornians to buy their pet food in Mexico. Currently, only dog food made from lamb, chicken, or vegetables can be legally imported into Mexico.
What many dog owners are doing now — even before the tax increase in January — is preparing large pots of rice, beans, and pieces of chicken, which they substitute for prepared commercial dog food. Márquez told El Sol that the homemade mixture is much cheaper than buying bags of dog food.
Already, the ProvidAnimal shelter, which cares for around 100 animals daily, is having trouble coming up with enough money to buy dog food, a problem shared with about 15 other animal-rescue organizations in Tijuana, Márquez told the newspaper.
"This is going to generate a serious problem in the state with the situation of abandoned dogs," he said, "and above all for organizations that work with the city trying to keep the streets clean of wandering dogs and providing them with food and shelter. We are running the risk of closing these shelters for lack of money to run them."
When a dog is captured on the street and taken to the Tijuana pound, its owners have up to 72 hours to claim it before it is put to death. If the owner does show up, the city imposes a fine of about 360 pesos (about $28) to reclaim it.
Márquez told El Sol that an estimated 20,000 to 25,000 abandoned dogs are currently roaming the streets of Tijuana, a number that is certain to rise with the new customs regulations and the increase in the sales tax.