Venezuelan pets share owners’ economic woes
It is increasingly hard to find their food on the nearly bare supermarket shelves. They lack basic medicine. Some have even been kidnapped.
Venezuelan pets, like their owners, are suffering from the economic malaise, chronic shortages and violent crime gripping the country.
Roselin Gonzalez has four dogs: Catira, Pelusa, Bianca and Berpi.
Catira and Pelusa, both 15 years old, have to take Euthyrox and Enalapril for thyroid and heart conditions.
But like many human patients, they don’t always get their pills.
“I spend days going around to different pharmacies, and sometimes I can’t find the right medicine for my dogs. I can’t imagine how a patient would feel if faced with the prospect of dying because of a lack of medicine,” Gonzalez told AFP.
all over the country are in similar straits. Many lack food as well as medicine.
German Campos directs the Animal Health Industry Association, a group of 70 companies that import animal food and medicine.
The inventory of products for pets, birds, pigs, cows and horses is at “alarming levels,” he told AFP: 66 percent of the products in the sector are out of stock.
“Veterinarians are limiting the products they prescribe, or turning to products intended for human use that pets can also take,” said Campos.
Vaccines, Surgeries on Hold
It turns out this is a two-way street. Many human patients have meanwhile turned to veterinary supply stores to buy medicines they cannot find in pharmacies, said the president of the Venezuelan Medical Federation, Douglas Leon Natera.
“People are finding antibiotics, steroids, and topical medication for their skin diseases in pet stores,” he said.
Venezuela’s central bank has not released figures on shortages since March 2014. Then, they stood at 29.4 percent — meaning nearly one in three products the average household needed was out of stock.
President Nicolas Maduro’s government blames the problem on an “economic war” being waged by the private sector.
But business owners say the government’s failure to supply enough dollars on the tightly controlled foreign exchange market is preventing them from importing goods.
Venezuela depends on oil sales for 96 percent of its foreign currency. But sliding crude prices have left the import-dependent country desperately short of cash.
Manuel Caraballo, a veterinarian with 36 years of experience, said the triple feline vaccine for cats has been unavailable in the country for more than a year.
“Many clinics have not been performing surgeries because they don’t have anesthetics or suture materials,” he said.
The economic crisis has also fueled a sharp rise in violent crime, including kidnappings for ransom — even of pets.
That’s what happened in the case of Balu, a 14-year-old poodle that belonged to Ana Elisa Osorio, a former minister in the government of late Socialist leader Hugo Chavez.
The dog was sitting inside a car when it was taken in March.
“They demanded one million bolivars to return Balu,” Osorio told AFP — about US$1,500 on Venezuela’s black- market currency exchange at the time, but more than US$158,000 under the official rate.
“I offered them 200,000 bolivars and the kidnapper mocked me and asked me if I thought he was poor.” She never saw Balu again. Those who can travel beyond Venezuela buy food for their pets in the outside world.
Businessman Frank De Prada, for example, makes space in his bags each time he leaves the country to bring back food for his dogs and parrots.
“They get sick if they don’t eat good-quality food,” he told AFP.
Roger Pacheco, an activist for animal rights group AnimaNaturalis, explained that pet owners are increasingly turning to homeopathic remedies to deal with the lack of conventional medicine.
Although it has not stopped pet owners from complaining about these hardships, Venezuela’s government does run a program supporting domesticated and street animals.
It is called Nevado’s Mission, after the dog of Venezuelan independence hero Simon Bolivar, the icon of Chavez and Maduro’s political movement.