Street Dogs in Cuba — Quasi Security Guards — Are Given Special Shelter

The life of a street dog is often harsh. The stress of dodging traffic, the animal control officer, and others who want to do the stray canines harm takes its toll, often leading to illness and death.

Not so for some street dogs in Cuba. More than a dozen state institutions in Cuba have decided to give the poor waifs shelter, including year-round veterinary care. The organizations range from museums to the Central Bank to a public toilet, according to the Associated Press. The dogs are assigned shelter and even wear special badges — albeit tattered — with their photo, stating their names and the location of their assigned abode.

One such place of refuge is the centuries old Havana’s Museum of Metalwork. With gleaming archways and artworks overhead, five of the street dogs live in relative luxury. The dogs, named Vladimir, Canela, Aparicio, Leon, and Carinoso can take shelter from sweltering heat, lying in the shade of a sculpture. Come nightfall, the canines often patrol the streets with local police when not dreaming under an archway of their last adventure.

One of the 21 dogs who serve in a pseudo-security role actually did save the day on occasion. When thieves at the Museum of Metalwork attempted to steal air conditioners, the canine task force let forth their fury: loud barking not only warned off the thieves, but it also awakened a security guard, according to Nora Garcia, the president of the Cuban Association for the Protection of Plants and Animals. Garcia also told the Associated Press the following.

“There was a public ceremony in which the dog received an award for saving the air conditioners.”

The adoption by Cuban institutions of street dogs began with the desire for companionship and love for animals by some human security of the institutions during their long, otherwise lonely shifts. Normally, animals other than guard dogs are banned from workplaces in Cuba, according to the Daily Mail.

The dogs live “high on the hog,” often partaking of leftover restaurant fare or of the security guards’ leftovers: half-eaten pork chops, rice, cold cuts, mincemeat, hotdogs, and liver. Some dogs have even become obese. These lucky dogs are protected, and not abused. Dalia Garcia, a caretaker of a public restroom, stated the following, reported in the Associated Press.

“They stay here and nothing happens to them. Everyone takes care of them, no one hits them. They don’t bark and they don’t bite anyone.”

Some other street dogs in Old Havana don’t fare as well as the chosen ones. The other strays are picked up by the dog catcher and not adopted out or wander around destitute, matted and emaciated, scrounging whatever they can from restaurant trash to survive. These dogs can face a sad fate of starvation or abuse.

Although the dog who saved the air conditioners in Old Havana was lauded as a hero, unfortunately not all “hero dogs” are appreciated. In an Inquisitr article, a dog who saved his owner from domestic assault by her boyfriend was kicked out of the township of Hazel Park, Michigan. Why? Because the dog was a pit bull. Breed bans and prejudice still exist, even when a dog should be rewarded.

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