Havana Throws Stray Mutts State Homes, Health Care

Which is a little better than a bone, really
By Polly Davis Doig,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 19, 2015 2:36 PM CDT
Havana Throws Stray Mutts State Homes, Health Care
Vladimir wears an ID collar that gives his name and residence, as he sits at the Old Havana Museum of Metalwork in Havana, Cuba.   (AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa)

Life on city streets often keeps stray dogs lean and mean, but select pooches in Havana could be forgiven for thinking that all dogs are in heaven: The AP ventures into the Cuban capital, and finds that, pseudo-officially and unofficially, it has a soft spot for street dogs—as well as a literal spot for them. Upward of a dozen official institutions have taken in such animals and given them not just a little kibble, but an official ID, a home, a hall pass for the dogcatcher, a job of sorts, and yeah, medical care. "They don't eat bones," says a guard in Old Havana's Museum of Metalwork, home to and also guarded by Aparicio, Canela, Carinoso, Leon, and Vladimir. "They eat cold cuts, mincemeat, hotdogs, and liver."

"I don't like dogs but I've really developed a soft spot in my heart for them," says another guard. These are truly doggie one-percenters: There are just 21 such pooches living in institutions ranging from a Communist Party gas station to the Cuban Journalists' Union. The AP notes that a plethora of Old Havana restaurants and their leftovers means that "some have grown nearly obese." They skirt rules against dogs in the workplace by at least claiming to be guard dogs, if not doing a little occasional actual guarding: One barking dog alerted a guard to a thief trying to lift some air conditioners. "There was a public ceremony in which the dog received an award for saving the air conditioners," says the head of the local animal protection society. Adds the caretaker of two former street dogs: "Everyone takes care of them, no one hits them. They don't bark and they don't bite anyone." (More Cuba stories.)

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