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Slow but Steady Progress in Peru

Peruvian animal shelters make do without a “culture of adoption”

When Lourdes Chino goes to work selling cigarettes and candy bars on a hilly street off the Plaza de Armas in Cusco, Peru, she doesn’t go alone. She brings her dogs, Chiqui and Beto, with her. While the 14-year-old girl sits, calling out to tourists who pass her cart, Chiqui and Beto run free in the streets, picking through garbage and ducking into open storefronts to beg for scraps.

So far the two dogs have been fortunate; like many other dogs in Peru, they seem to have a sixth sense that keeps them out of harm’s way. But, Lourdes acknowledges, letting them run free is risky. “People leave their pets on the streets,” she says nonchalantly. “Sometimes, they are killed by cars.”

Such casual attitudes about pet welfare are common in the developing nation, where Chiqui and Beto are considered lucky to have even a casual caretaker. Thousands of perros callejeros (street dogs) are less fortunate, roaming the country’s streets, often matted and infested with fleas, surviving on garbage.

“Animal abandonment is a huge problem in Peru, as well as many lower-income countries,” says Molly Mednikow, the U.S. citizen who founded Amazon Community Animal Rescue, Education & Safety (Amazon CARES), an animal protection organization in Iquitos. “People that are struggling do not share the same bond with their animals as people in more industrialized nations.”

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