Culture & History

Street Dogs and Dog Ownership Trends in Mexico

Foreign Native shares some insights and anecdotes about strays and street dogs in Mexico along with some comments on trends and habits among dog owners here

Street Dog in Mexico

Stray dogs are still part of the Mexican street landscape. The number of street dogs has diminished substantially over the years with the work of the catchers, but strays —mongrels for the most part— can still be seen hanging around the markets and street stalls, where their scavenging for food has a greater chance of success.

Strays in Mexico

Stray dogs in Mexico are generally not treated very well, and the most common reaction of street dogs is to dodge when humans come close, probably a conditioned response to having been frequently kicked or stoned or hissed at to scat.

One overblown fear is that you could catch rabies. Years of government vaccination campaigns —since 1990— has reduced this probability to practically zero. In 2005, officials noted 125 cases of rabies among dogs and cats in nine states, compared with more than 3,000 cases in 1990 in 29 states. The latest data from Mexico’s health ministry demonstrate that in 2017 there were just three cases in three states—and not every case affected humans.

According to estimates from health officials, there are around 100,000 reported cases a year of dogs attacking humans, of which nearly half were vaccinated dogs, suggesting that dogs with owners are just as likely (or unlikely) to bite you as strays. This is in a population of 130 million people, and an estimated 18 million to 20 million dogs.

Concerns about stray dogs that have been mentioned by different local governments carrying out round-up campaigns include health problems caused by feces, and in one case in northern Durango state, dogs were said to be a threat to drivers as they crossed the highway.

Precise data are hard to come by

While there appear to be fewer street dogs every time you look, the number of dogs with owners seems to be increasing, along with other security measures in residential areas. (Keeping a dog is a deterrent to burglars.) Statistics in this case don’t go very far—the maze of data on the country’s National Statistics Institute web site turns-up little meaningful data about man’s best friend.

They don’t say, for example, how many dogs get taken for walks every day and how many are left to rot on rooftops, barking in desperation at anyone who walks below, and raising their level of excitement if the pedestrian is accompanied by a dog.

Trends observed by watching dog walkers

A walk in the park —or in one of Mexico City’s trendy neighborhoods where younger generations can be seen walking their dogs instead of pushing baby buggies— of a morning or an evening turns up a fair amount of anecdotal evidence about the habits of people and their dogs. The ‘poop scoop,’ for example, is becoming increasingly common, although it’s still sensible to keep an eye on the ground before you.

In middle-class suburbia, there is a good deal of oneupmanship when it comes to owning a dog. It’s not very practical to staple a pedigree certificate to the animal, and so the more obvious implicit superlatives are biggest, rarest, most expensive—things that people just know and dogs just don’t care about.

With many city dwellers living in apartments, sub-compact dogs appear to be more plentiful than the larger breeds. Schnauzers and Pugs enjoyed a period of popularity in recent years, although their fame has become overshadowed by the Bulldog. But most likely, as more and more people get Bulldogs, and their novelty wears-off, a need will arise for a new “in” dog.

Learn more about caring for pets in Mexico

Mexperience publishes guides and articles about bringing pets to Mexico and caring for them here:


  1. Nancy says

    Check out how Turkey deals with stay cats and dogs. It is really incredible. Everyone cares for strays, especially in the cites. It makes traveling to Turkey really great for animal lovers!
    Adopt don’t breed!

  2. Miriam says

    It is true and very sad to know there are many, many stray dogs and cats (and other animals, by the way, which are abandoned or treated badly).

    However, consciousness is growing on people, as the promotion of adoption is increasing rapidly, with the discourage (and, even, cruel judgment) to some middle or high-class people who would only buy pure-breed animals. There are many individuals and organizations that will rescue, feed, heal and, almost always, spay neuter the animals and then put them up for adoption.

    Laws against animal abuse have been passed recently in the City and some other States, mandating severe penalties for abusers and establishing animals’ rights, as well as provisions that pet owners have to comply with.

    The famous department store Liverpool has just announced that they will not sell animals anymore and that they will now only dedicate to sell products for them.

    Also, as a final note, the DF has joined the list of States that prohibit the use of animals in circuses. I think we have a long way to go but, step by step, we will make the world a better place for all of them.

    PS. I also have a schnauzer! She is a cutie pie.

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