The last official estimate puts the number of stray dogs in Cusco at 14,000, but more recent figures suggest the number could be as high as 40,000. These dogs roam the streets freely and are incredibly vulnerable to both disease and injury.
As they wander the streets and roads, they are often involved in car accidents which, if not fatal, leave them with horrific injuries which make their lives even harder. They are also not vaccinated against many diseases which can cause permanent physical damage as well as death.
One of the biggest issues is that these dogs aren’t neutered or spayed, so the population grows more and more every year as more dogs are born on the streets, worsening the situation year after year.
Another major problem is the local culture surrounding animal welfare. While the situation is slowly improving as attitudes are changing, many people still consider it acceptable to hit animals. Peruvian law prohibits the maltreatment of domestic animals, with fines for those who do not comply, but stray animals are not protected by these laws. This means there are no repercussions for those who harm them. As a result locals often hit them if they are in their bins or around their market stalls. In extreme cases people even poison local strays in order to cull them.
Harmful for the population
In addition to the horrific living conditions these dogs experience, their presence is also harmful for the human population; they contribute to the spread of disease and rubbish and are responsible for an average of 1,200 reported dog bites per year (with more going unreported).
It is therefore of great importance, not just for the dogs themselves but for people too, that some serious action is taken to combat the overpopulation of dogs in Cusco and educate the local population on appropriate treatment of animals.