Puerto Natales moves forward to humanely address their free roaming dogs issues
During a two day workshop led by the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) in partnership with Veterinarians Without Borders-Canada (VWB) and the Municipality of Puerto Natales, over 20 individuals representing local sectors including the municipal government, agriculture, education, academia, animal and social organizations came together to share their understanding of the local situation with roaming dogs in Puerto Natales.
Workshop attendees considered a wide range of factors influencing the dog population, explored reasons why dogs are causing problems for people in the city, examined data on local dog behavior and health, as well as citizen´s attitudes and perceptions of local dogs. As a result, the community has taken a critical step towards improving the relations between its human and canine population.
“We are inspired by the way the people of Puerto Natales are coming together and showing their commitment to improving the lives of people and dogs in the city” said Kate Atema, Director of the Companion Animals program for IFAW. “We are committed to supporting Puerto Natales as its citizens embark on the process of finding humane, sustainable solutions to concerns about the city´s dogs. Puerto Natales now has the potential to become a model of humane dog population management in Chile.”
This first workshop marks the beginning of an ongoing process, as the development of effective, long-term solutions and a plan for humane dog population management will take continued time and effort. “The commitment and leadership in Puerto Natales is clear, and will be critical to the success of this process moving forward”, said Guillermo Perez, workshop facilitator and Project Coordinator for VWB. “This group of stakeholders had amazing insight into the issue and we hope they will continue to share these revelations with the rest of the community.”
Workshop attendees committed to monthly meetings and will be focusing on collecting a wide range of community data and information critical to the next step in this process. IFAW and VWB have stated that when the community completes the follow-up process, they will return to Puerto Natales to help facilitate the development of a management plan.
A dog management plan for Puerto Natales will be tailored specifically to the needs of the people and dogs in the city, and will aim to address issues now as well as permanently for the future. “You´ve opened our eyes,” reported one attendee. “Everything we´ve been doing was short term and we need to be thinking about the medium and long term too.”
Workshop attendees also recognized one factor that will be critically important to any new strategy going forward, that human attitudes and behaviors towards dogs are the key to making positive changes for the community. On the last day one attendee summarized the root of the problem perfectly: “It doesn’t matter how many dogs we have,” he said, “it´s how we have them”.