Veronica Vega

Dino, the dog my sister is trying to save, during better times.
Dino, the dog my sister is trying to save, during better times.

HAVANA TIMES — I must admit I am rather put off when someone sees me buy some food from a nearby stand for a stray cat or dog and, while the animal devours the food desperately, compassionately says:

“Take it with you, girl!”

Once, I took the trouble of explaining to one such person that I already had a lot of animals at home, and they replied:

“So what? Another one ain’t gonna kill you.”

I asked him how many animals he had, and he said that none. So I said to him:

“So, why don’t you take him home?”

The man laughed smugly.

“I don’t like dogs, see.”

Absurd as it may seem, many people actually believe that those of us who go to the trouble of picking up and adopting sick animals do so because “we like it,” as though it were like going to a pet shop.

My sister has already lost count of the number of cats and dogs she has rescued and the ones that have died. Neither she nor her children have picked up most of them: people simply place them at her doorstep in secret.

A single mother with four children who have impressively defied poverty, all are tall, beautiful and healthy. While still small, if, by some miracle, the family could afford to buy some milk, they would happily share it with the last litter of kitten someone had tried to save by entrusting it to others.

Now, they are battling to save a dog with canine distemper. Very few people are aware of how deadly this disease is: of a hundred dogs that become infected, only five percent survive. The strong, happy and affectionate animal that it was is unrecognizable right now. After suffering long convulsions, it is scrawny, sways as it walks and its stare seems empty. The family prioritizes visits to the vet and expensive medication over many other needs: fixing the cracking, peeling walls of the house and broken furniture.

State veterinary clinics and the few institutions that offer medical attention for pets do not envisage programs that exempt voluntary animal protectors from payment, no matter how much they’ve done to clean up streets or saved helpless beings from the sadistic violence that many Cubans shamelessly put upon them.

For many, they are eccentrics and nut-jobs. By contrast, those who abandon entire litters of puppies and kittens inside garbage bins, those who do not sterilize their pets and sometimes get rid of them, leaving them in a distant neighborhood, are not breaking any law. Nor do those who have kinder hearts and try to help these animals, leaving them in the hands of others.

Those who adopt these animals, however, are looked upon with disdain and even held liable for hygienic reasons. Not those who abandon animals, no. They live in well-kept houses with respectable appearances.

There’s talk of a crisis of values now, but, what better world could we build by neglecting those beings that depend on others? What does solidarity consist in, if not developing empathy and compassion? Values cannot be decreed, they have to be passed on in practice, through example. And laws are indispensable for preventing and controlling our degeneration.

I think it’s time to put things in their place, of valuing those who truly deserve it. Under no circumstance should irresponsibility be considered a social merit.


Veronica Vega

Veronica Vega: I believe that truth has power and the word can and should be an extension of the truth. I think that is also the role of Art and the media. I consider myself an artist, but above all, a seeker and defender of the Truth as an essential element of what sustains human existence and consciousness. I believe that Cuba can and must change and that websites like Havana Times contribute to that necessary change.

One thought on “Cuba: Charity at the Expense of Others

  • Veronica
    I totally agree with you . I live in Denmark – but have “Family” in Cuba , and go there every second year on vacation. We live in Havana and every time I am there I see these stay cats and dogs being treated very badly – yes even with cruelty and my heart breaks . These animals depend on human beings but are abandoned by those who should take care of them . I often buy food for them – I tell my family to buy ham and meat at the market , so I can feed these animals , that suffer a lot. I also notice that the cubans who see me feed these animals sends me a ´look saying ” You are crazy” – but I don’t care .
    The problem is – like you say in your article – that many Cuban don’t feel resposible about their dogs and cats. If the dog get puppies or the cat kittens – they just place them somewhere in the streets and leave them . If these animals survive and grow up, they give birth to new straydogs and cats , that will have a miserable life in the streets and the story goes on ond on . These animals are not the problem – irreponsible humans are!
    There should be vets or other organizations that took in these poor animals and save them from a miserable life with starvation and illnesses and why aren’t there laws protecting animals in Cuba like in all other civililized countries ?
    Compassion is what these animals need – they are in the streets because of human irresponsibility .

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