On Cuban Strays: there are lots. If you’re an animal lover expect to see cats and dogs crossing in front of you every ten feet. Surprisingly most of them look well-fed, but there were a few that were hard to pass - skinny, mangy and not well. Spay and neuter is not a thing, therefore the population is out of control.
Some stray dogs wore giant numbered identification tags around their neck- the government cares for them. The public can adopt them by going through the government. The other strays with no identification are cared for by the community. One of the locals said “It’s really nice, they are just like us, a part of the community. We all feed and look after them.” This was in Havana. Another local said this is not the case for animals outside of Havana and that the issue of sick homeless cats and dogs is real.
My heart was conflicted much of the time, but I was truly happy in this moment. We were sitting outside at a restaurant the first night in Cuba and I felt a little creature licking my legs. It was this baby seen here. She put her paws on my knees and just kissed me and of course I interpreted that as please take me home. We walked about 15 blocks to another place. She followed right behind me for 10 blocks until two dogs came out of nowhere chasing after her. It must have been their street! She knew she couldn’t tread on that territory. My heart broke. If I was traveling alone I would have stayed - I looked back and saw her sitting at the end of the street just watching as we left. 💔 I prayed that we would see her again.
Flash forward two nights later - I saw what looked like her across the street and she saw us. She ran over, so excited. These are the photos from that sweet reunion. Again, she followed us for many blocks, looking up and my husband and I as we all walked together. We went into a bar and I was told that she sat outside the bar staring and waiting. When I came out she was gone. I never saw her again and am still dreaming about her sweet face.
I recently found out that you can actually adopt a dog from Cuba. However, it's important to be 100 percent sure. First you have to make sure the dog doesn't belong to someone. It's pretty normal for Cubans to let their dogs run free in the street. Once you've determined that the dog is indeed a stray you can contact the government about adopting. You'll have to get rabies and adoption paperwork before you leave the country (not dissimilar to the U.S.) and either have a rescue transport the dog via plane or bring the dog back with you on the plane . The process can take two to four weeks. It's not quick, but it's doable. It's really important to be 100 percent sure about adopting an animal from Cuba, because if it doesn't work out there's not really another option. We are also beyond capacity with dogs here in the States, therefore bringing the animal to a rescue wouldn't be an option. Plus it's not really fair to the homeless pets we have here. After speaking with a couple of folks who know the Cuban adoption process well and who guessed that this dog most likely belonged to a local given her healthy appearance, I decided not to rush down there to scoop her off the streets. She was truly happy as many of the animals were - they seemed to be well-fed (I especially knew that because they refused my vegan food!), happy and free. They ran around together in their packs, understood how to watch for cars while crossing the street and never seemed to scuffle over food. They truly thrived as a community. So I'll focus my efforts here in the States where 4,100 animals are killed in shelters daily simply because there is no space. If you'd like to get involved and help the homeless pets in the U.S., visit Best Friends Animal Society, who's mission is to end all killing in the nation's shelters by 2025. See how you can get involved here.
I was able to feed many dogs at one time without any one of them fighting over the food! They just waited patiently for their turn. Of course, the white bread and rice was not up to their standards. You can see the one looking at the bread like "um, do you have anything better than that?"
These dogs belonged to a family who lived behind the café we visited daily. This was their "dog crate".
This kitten was ADORABLE. He was playing in this tree for about an hour, having a great time. We just watched him as we sipped on our Cuban coffee. Photo courtesy of Nikki Wilson, our travel friend. ♥️