With a motley crew of rescues, pampered North American pets, and seasoned street urchins, San Pancho's dog population nearly rivals that of its humans. But with a mass of mutts comes a host of challenges, with population control, sanitation issues, noise pollution, and animal cruelty topping the list.
There's a blurry line between street dogs and dogs with homes who spend 90% of their days outside. For most locals, pet responsibility is kept at a minimum, and many dogs are left to fend for themselves during the day, patrolling the streets with buddies or heading down to the beach to socialize and bum snacks.
The homeless and abandoned dog situations in San Pancho and neighboring Sayulita have been nearing crisis mode for some time. Karen Puerini-Razza, a San Pancho transplant who volunteers for San Pancho Animales, says that even with donation-funded sterilization clinics, the problems persist. "In San Pancho alone, I'd say there are at least two emergency animal situations a day - and in Sayulita, that can be multiplied by 10."
In Mexico, dogs are often seen as protectors rather than pets, and tend to lose their charm and appeal after puppyhood. Pet abandonment is a regular occurrence, with jaded owners dropping their dogs off in the streets of San Pancho and Sayulita.
Karen has rescued five dogs herself, all of whom have been adopted into new homes. But without a proper shelter to house the animals, volunteers often find themselves fostering the strays until a forever home can be found. "In Sayulita, there's a facility to process the dogs into the adoption system and place them into foster homes, but it's not a shelter - we're in dire need of a shelter," Karen shares.
And unfortunately, sometimes it's the foster families themselves who are part of the cyclical problem. "Many people come here for the season and take on a stray dog as their own, providing food and companionship," says Karen. "Then at season's end, they leave town, and the animal's left behind to fend for itself once again."
Currently, Sayulitanimals offers a free weekly spay and neuter clinic, providing services to at least 10 animals weekly. In San Pancho, San Pancho Animales runs a free rabies clinic which lasts until they run out of supplies. Both organizations rely solely upon donations, which are few and far between.
While cultural adaptation remains a struggle, community awareness is on an upward trajectory. "It's much better than in previous years, but there are still many heartbreaking cases," Karen adds. Weathering the peaks and valleys of running a not-for-profit organization, San Pancho Animales and Sayulitanimals continue to press forward in their fight against animal cruelty, providing efforts toward a cleaner environment, education for the community, and assistance to animals in dire need of help and homes.
A huge thank you to Karen Puerini-Razza, Judith Anderson, Betty McIntyre, Marianna Berdejo, and Sara Briner, as well as the host of volunteers and foster families. Compelled to donate? Sayulitanimals takes donations via PayPal.