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.

Adopt, Foster, Rescue: Directory of Dog Shelters in Mexico

If you’d like to find a place where you can go to rescue a street dog, this directory of dog shelters in Mexico lists rescue centers by Mexican state, so you can find a shelter close to where you live and contact the shelter for more information.

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. Chad says

    You sound like a horrible person Gary. No compassion whatsoever. It’s not the fault of the dogs that are living on the streets.

    • wayne says

      well chad i dont think its fair for you to say that cause he going off of what he saw probably

  2. chris says

    It’s too late for you to change, Gary. And far too late for Mexico to change to accommodate you. Best to pack up and go back to gringolandia, where you can complain about the taxes that support dog catchers and other “animal control” staff.

  3. rudy says

    hi, recently adopted a street dog from mexico and he looks exactly like this guy! does anyone happen to know what breed this dog is? we’ve been trying to determine what type of dog he is.

  4. Jamie Lopez says

    I recently moved to Mexico from the United States. And since have also been traveling through the country. I do not know what it was like “before” but what I have seen now, has kept me up at night. I have left certain towns with tears in my eyes. The most inhumane and cruel treatment I have seen is , is keeping the dog on a short tether starving to death. No food, water or shelter in sight. Skin and bones.
    Because of this I am getting involved in ANY and ALL animal rescues across the country. I ask and encourage everyone to do the same. Also, if there are any suggestions on how to stop people from tying the dog up and starving it to death- please let me know.
    Thank you all for having this conversation.

  5. JR says

    This is not at all true in my experience. I have seen a lot of stray dogs in Mexico and they all seem very docile and sweet. They seem well fed and well cared for.

    • Christopher says

      As a dog owner [five, including two street rescues] you could not be more wrong about the “well fed and well cared for” part. Yes, they are docile and sweet. They are also loaded with ticks, fleas, and intestinal parasites. Many of the ones I see, you can read a newspaper through with a strong backlight. One thing about them is when you do adopt them or care for them, even at vet spay/neuter clinics, they are so grateful for the attention. The adoptees NEVER forget who saved their sorry carcasses from the life on the streets.

      An interesting exercise is to tally the number of males you see [easy because they are never fixed] vs. number of females. It is wildly skewed toward males, because the females are screwed and puppied to death at a very young age.

    • Janice Martinez says

      I have lived in Mexico for 13 years and all that I see is suffering and mistreatment of dogs.

  6. 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!

  7. 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.

    • Gary Augustus says

      I’m an expat American living in the State of Sonora, and I have zero sympathy for the dogs on the streets of Mexico. Any pet, cat, dog, bird, whatever, if they are under the concise control over their owners, are tolerable and welcome. But, if they are as I’ve experienced them in the Mexican city where I maintain an apartment, they are a menace and a nuisance to be harshly dealt with.
      I am currently preparing to move out that city because of these dogs.
      I have been attacked more than just a few times, seemingly once or twice a week, by dogs that charge and attack out of alleyways, unleashed and unsupervised from homes, or just by packs of strays roaming the streets. I’ve been forced to carry some type of blunt object weapon with me because of this, and I’m wary of leaving my apartment to run errands or keep appointments. I have to keep my head on a swivel when venturing away from my domain at all times.
      I ride a bicycle, and have been at risk of careening into high-speed automobile traffic because I’m fighting off or avoiding being bitten by these dogs…at least one being rabid. In my neighborhood I am surrounded on all points by dogs, be it some neighbor’s penned up security dog, or those familiar enough to the street that I live on to just parade through it in search of food. More than once I’ve witnessed these animals inside of the trash cans located in front of every habitable building, knocking them over to spill garbage and trash into the sidewalks and street. Their incessant barking and yapping throughout the day and through the night has forced me to invest in ear plugs, and to keep earbuds inside my ears havingg to listen to music and other tranquil sounds just so that I can sleep and awake without the sound of dogs. They dictate how I live by their noise and dangerous presence.
      I’ve lived in this particular city for 6 months, and I’ve seen ONE dog catcher.
      It’s ironic that the dangers in this city doesn’t come from what we hear on the newscasts, from the human elements…my fears and concerns are these feral dogs.
      I call it El Ciudad de Perros..

      • Theresa Ross says

        Sounds like there’s a reason the dogs don’t like you Gary. That’s cruel. Dogs can sense good and bad and you’re not a good person Gary.

      • Jamie Lopez says

        This problem was created by human negligence.
        The Dog, is not a wild animal, it is a domesticated animal.
        Perhaps being a part of the solution would not only help you, but also help these dogs.

      • Shayra cree eddy says

        God I hope someone treats you this way, your trash Gary. And super abusive.

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