Fighting Animal Cruelty in Panama

Panama Adopts First Ever Cruelty to Animal Ordinances With a Bite

Living in Central America and also having served as a certified animal cruelty investigator in the US has been a real double-edged blade.

Typical stray dog found in Panama

Since moving to Panama I always remind myself that you can’t help them all. My opinion is education is the key; and people also learn watching by example, and I try to set one.

Most people talk about the animal abuser as someone who knowingly commits acts of cruelty for power, amusement and torture over a creature that cannot defend itself.

In Panama I have witnessed frustrated owners striking dogs for not behaving and dragging dogs by a back leg. When I have talked to these owners they simply don’t get it. What you see here is a society as a whole that does not view animals as something to revere, rather a possession. Many do not feel it necessary to ensure comfort or consider the feelings of this possession. Let me say that there are exceptions.

Typical stray dog found in Panama

This was something I had to come to terms with when I moved to Panama. It’s common to see dogs chained, starving, ridden with parasites and mange not to mention abandonment and neglect. As a matter of fact an owner that chains their dogs is usually one of the more respected just because they care enough about their animal to keep them from roaming the streets.

A New Day in Panama

Recently the first ever real animal cruelty ordinance has been passed. I don’t know where they got their information from but it seems that they have tried to address the more critical avenues.

Some of the issues that are covered are

Physical abuse
Lack of care
Dog Fighting
Selling of Domestic Animals in Public Places

The charges range generally from $100 to $1,000; and in some areas this may also include community service.

One of the problems is this

Article 18. In addition to the penalty provided in the preceding article, an order for the rescue of the pet pr domestic animal will be issued and temporary transfer to an animal protection organization or shelter of the municipality for safekeeping, care and safety will be arranged, when an owner or responsible for custody of pets or domestic animals contravenes the provisions of this Act. The pet or domestic animal will be treated and admitted in accordance to the guidelines of each association or protective entity.
In this case, the costs incurred will be paid by the owner or responsible for the pet or domestic animal.

There are no qualified shelters or rescue organizations in Panama. I have heard of one “shelter” in Panama City but unfortunately I also know it’s not somewhere we would want any stray dog to end up under any circumstances.

The problem is with lack of education in a combined culture it’s going to take years to bring the standards of animal care up to what I feel is an acceptable level. If we were to build shelters right now with the lack of enforcement they would quickly become overrun with throw-away dogs and would become no more than a place of constant euthanasia. There is no enforcement right now in Panama. No animal services. No cruelty investigation. We would have to rely on police to enforce ordinances and since they are completely uneducated, it makes the situation impossible.

Thanks to organizations like Spay Panama and Amigos de Animales who’s volunteers take in strays and injured animals and tirelessly put fourth the effort to do what they can o find homes for these animals. Both Spay Panama and Amigos de Animales are spay and neuter organizations and not rescues. I applaud every one of them.

Our new ordinances are a start. Times will change. It’s going to be an ongoing battle to educate the people behind the badge. However these new ordinances are moving our Country in the right direction.