As I’m walking the streets of Havana it becomes obvious that the city has its share of both street animals and those fortunate enough to be kept as pets. Although one is struck by the fact that most sightings and interactions are with dogs as there appear to be very few cats. And for those that are sighted, they quickly scurry away to relative security beneath a parked car. The street dogs of Old Havana and Vedado where most tourists can be found wandering are for the most part in better physical condition and fare better in their interactions with people than in countries facing similar economic conditions.
Unfortunately coming upon a sick or severely undernourished dog while strolling the streets of the capital is not rare. A disease that appeared to have taken hold on a group of resident dogs in the Plaza de San Francisco de Asis highlighted the need for animal rescue groups to take action. This was ironic given that St. Francis is considered the patron saint of animals.
Noticing one particular patchy haired, severely undernourished dog stumbling across the old cobbled stones with a tail chewed raw, I stopped. I could not simply walk away and let him die what would obviously be a prolonged and painful death.
I made my way to the first café I could find and bought a slice of chorizo empanada (akin to a sausage pie). Armed with food, my relief at having taken this step was short lived. As I placed the broken bits of pie right beneath his dry nose, he didn’t even blink, nor sniff for that matter. I watched consumed with a feeling of helplessness. Eventually I left the square in search of others who might partake of the food. It only took walking the span of a couple of streets to find enough vagabond dogs and a straggly cat to finish off the remaining bits.
Returning to the plaza to meet the group I was travelling with, I remembered that I had seen an article on a local dog and cat rescue group. So, with renewed hope, I proceeded to look them up on the Internet and found a phone number. Could this be the solution I had been looking for? The phone would not ring. Instead, a voice kept telling me I was dialing the wrong number. Another dead end…
Undeterred I resumed my online search only to find a forum chat about the lack of animal rescue groups in Havana. And it turned out that the one I had been calling – or rather attempting to call – was a non-profit organization based out of Florida. However, forum members seemed uncertain whether it was still in operation. With this last ditch attempt apparently a failure, and already late for a group excursion by ferry to Regla, I took a deep breath and walked away knowing what I was leaving behind.
Will the relaxation of travel restrictions for US citizens also be an opportunity for non-profit veterinary groups to establish themselves on this island nation? Perhaps at this positive political turn in history and the influx of tourism dollars we can also consider the needs of our four legged friends
All Photographs Are © Raluca Boros
Raluca Boros Photographer Bio
After graduating with a Bachelor’s degree in Statistics and Economics from Carleton University, Raluca Boros embarked on a multidisciplinary career path spanning both the public and private service in Ottawa. Her passion for photography and storytelling was heightened through workshops in Japan with Mark Edward Harris and Cuba with David Barbour. She is currently on a world tour camera-in-hand exploring cultures on and off the beaten track.
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