Question: I would like to travel to Cuba and introduce the service animal concept to interested people in Cuba as part of my Master’s Degree program from Bergin University in California. Can you suggest a university contact or organization I might contact in Cuba?
Answer: Cuba is well aware of the value of service animals, especially service dogs, and the tremendous assistance they can provide. Towards this end, Cuba has an Escuela Nacional de Técnica Canina (National School for Canine Skills), coming under the Ministry of the Interior (which includes Cuba’s fire fighters, among others), which trains dogs for police work, drug control at Cuba’s international airports and other installations, rescue work in the event of natural disasters (earthquakes, hurricanes, etc. as part of the country’s Civil Defence system), and so forth. Some of the programs at the Escuela Nacional de Técnica Canina involve a three-year period of study, with each student being matched with each dog, taking into consideration the characteristics of both. In these cases, the dogs live with the students in their homes, as part of the study program includes how to care for and train the dogs with whom they’ll be working. Given the nature of this school, it would not be possible to work directly with them.
In a consultation with the vice-president of Cuba’s Asociación Nacional del Ciego (ANCI or the National Association for the Visually Impaired), it was explained that although Cuba is conscious of the tremendous usefulness of seeing-eye dogs, there does not yet exist any program within the country for training such dogs. Neither ANCI nor the Cuban state is able to make the necessary investment to create such a program. On the other hand, there are problems with bringing in already-trained dogs from outside the country, as they often have problems adapting to the much warmer Cuban climate. Cuba also lacks the necessary infrastructure with which to support such a program, such as an installation not only for training the dogs, but for providing accommodation during the months-long program of turning over the trained dogs to their eventual owners with whom they’ll be living and working.
Finally, in a consultation with the president of the Asociación Cubana para la Protección de Animales y Plantas (ANIPLANT or the Cuban Association for the Protection of Animals and Plants), it was also underscored that at the present time, Cuba does not have training institutions or organizations that prepare service animals. It is worthwhile noting that ANIPLANT, which was founded in 1987, is a member of the World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA). It is also Cuba’s only national organization dealing primarily with the protection of animals including providing community-level sterilization programs for dogs and cats. One of the main concerns of ANIPLANT as well as of other local animal care organizations is lobbying for a law for protecting animals, which Cuba still lacks.