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.
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