Tuesday, April 15, 2014

World as Classroom: Trashing Dogs in the Dominican Republic

By Jesus Santos

While serving with the Dominican Republic Alternative Spring Break team, my fellow volunteers as well as myself noticed how the country, even though covered with beauty, has a lot of improvements to do. The country is very poor and it is not shocking when we found children without shoes because of the bad economy, dogs without homes, and garbage at almost every square foot of the road.

(photo: Jesus Santos)
Every day on our commute to the school where we were volunteering, we saw the same dog under the same bench. Since the weather is so hot the dogs tried to lay in the shade so they can avoid the heat. This dog sometimes came out from under the bench and tried to find something to eat. Constantly, we saw dogs roaming around the streets, and a lot of them seemed to not have a home or food, therefore they tried to find it themselves.

The environmental issue in this country in regards to animals is that “every year stray animals are poisoned in communities, at hotel grounds and at beaches of the Dominican Republic (as well as on other Caribbean islands) because one believes that they may disturb the tourists,” stated a petition on change.org.“No more poisoned dogs at hotels and beaches of the Dominican Republic.”

However, what the country is concerned with is not the environmental factor of stray dogs, it is how much money tourists can bring to the Dominican Republic. By having a large tourist season it opens jobs for Dominicans, which sadly only lasts for a couple of months and the unemployment rates rise again.

What this country struggles to do is to be firm with a law that they have in regards to animal safety. While Trujillo was dictator, his “main concern was to elevate Dominican society to the standard of developed nations. The law carries a maximum 30 days imprisonment for offenders and 60 days if the offender is the animal’s owner or has committed a similar offense in the past. According to Mr. Polanco, the law has never really been applied in its entire 60-year history,” stated Idelisa Bonnelly de Calventi in her article “Animal Rights in the Dominican Republic.”

This article explained how Trujillo tried implementing a law and the law was not carried over, until one person was imprisoned because of it. However, this law does not protect those animals that are homeless, which is why hotels think it is acceptable to poison those animals.

What this potentially can lead to is to have the population of animals in only one place of the Dominican Republic and if they are not in one place they will start going extinct little by little. Also, these animals are threatened with the economy being so low that they do not have homes of their own, which ultimately can lead to diseases, hunger, thirst, and death.

A solution I propose to this problem is similar to how I volunteer with the DREAM project, an organization where children who are not financially able to go to school can still get an education; maybe an organization should be formed in regards to an animal shelter. If these animals can be rescued based on donations from advertisements to feed them, they would not roam around the hotel areas as much.

(photo: Jesus Santos)
Aside from this environmental issue I have also done research on how the country has poor recycling. You can see the littering that occurs throughout the streets and even in the grass. Since the streets are so narrow, garbage companies have a hard time picking up the trash.

However, the battle with recycling is a tricky one in Dominican Republic, because it benefits them as well. An article written by Erin Taylor states “Low wages and high unemployment rates in many South American countries have compelled many poor people to work as ‘garbage pickers’. These are people who go through municipal garbage to find anything that might be resold. Bottles, cardboard, and metal are the main items collected.” This article focuses on South American countries, but it also includes the Caribbean and states that “to Caribbean musicians inventing styles based on reworked oil drums” as an example to find useful materials out of someone else’s garbage.

A solution I propose to this environmental issue is to have people who usually volunteer experience these harsh living conditions and take it with them to their privileged countries. In doing this, they can spread awareness and a resource on how to help the environment. Since they realize that it is so hard to live in these countries and how people make everything out of nothing they can be more grateful to what they have in their home countries and prevent them from littering or at least help spread awareness on it. Little by little, we can make a change in our environment and ultimately help them.

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