Animals Have Rights, Too

Fighting for the Underdog

Our furry friends have found an ally in the person of Hazel Ruvalcabaz, who has long been an animal advocate in Ensenada. She rescues strays and nurses them back to health; in the process, she ensures that they’re neutered, properly groomed, treated for fleas, ticks and other parasites, provided with the series of inoculations that prevent diseases like rabies, and - very importantly - keeps a meticulous record of the services she has provided to each animal.

         The latter point is important because Hazel not only gives each animal tender loving care following its rescue, she also works vigorously to find it a permanent home.

In the process of doing so, she sometimes finds it necessary to place the animal in foster care. This means that the dog or cat will stay in a home where the person providing the temporary shelter will be given food, supplements and complete veterinary care free of charge, all the while enjoying the warmth and affection of a very grateful creature!

Photos of the animals are displayed on various web sites, and when someone agrees to take one home permanently, Hazel works with a network of her animal-loving colleagues to transport it to its destination. Most of her “pets” are targeted for homes in the United States, which is why Hazel’s record-keeping is so important: When crossing the border with a group of animals, the crossing guards may request medical documentation to ensure that sick and/or contagious animals are not being taken into the country.

Recently, Hazel led a caravan of her colleagues across the border with a total of 24 dogs!

The aspect of Hazel’s work that is so disturbing is that when attempting to rescue abused and neglected animals, she finds some of the victims of such abuse are beyond saving, and others may suffer permanently (physically and/or psychologically) from injuries sustained during their abuse.

The Mexican government has finally enacted laws providing punishment for animal abusers; some people think these laws are not enforced consistently (or, in some cases, not at all), and that they are not severe enough in the first place. However, when they are enforced, the laws send a sobering message to any would-be offenders.

Take, for example, the recent case of a man in Tijuana who barbecued his dog alive. Thanks to the new law (which was enacted in Baja Norte on September 25th), this man was sentenced to 5 months in prison and a hefty fine.

On the other hand, the law is not concerned with people whose offense is neglect, although if the neglect results in severe suffering or death of the animal, the authorities are apt to classify the neglect as abuse.

One of Hazel’s colleagues often sees houses where there are dogs are left in  the yard without food or water. In such cases, she coaxes the dogs off the private property and out into the open so she can snag it; she usually has six or seven “orphans” in her home. Sometimes she reports the situation to the authorities, but that social integrity doesn’t always result in any action being taken against the offender.  In other cases, she is careful to go no further than to point out to the animals’ owners that their pets need attention; sometimes, the embarrassment of being “outed” as a creep is enough to make that person be more attentive to his or her pets, even if only temporarily. 

One of the problems regarding animal protection in Mexico is the variance from state to state. Mexico City has the strictest and most comprehensive laws, which were initiated in 1995, and became more severe in 2007. There, the laws cover not only domestic pets, but also animals in the wild, as well unusual pets such as reptiles and rodents. In Baja, only northern Baja has enacted severe penalties for animal abusers, while Baja Sur has no laws whatsoever to punish such criminals.

The law adopted by Baja Norte was proposed by Green Party representative Fausto Gallardo, and, had it been passed as originally intended, would have provided penalties of up to three years in prison, and fines of up to 100 times the minimum wage. (which is now about $5).  It also would have been effective in all regions of Baja. Even though the law in Baja Norte doesn’t have as much teeth as in the original proposal, it is definitely a step in the right direction.

Punks playing futbol with newborn pups beware! The law can have you expelled from school, require you to enroll in therapy, and be fined, which probably won’t sit well with your parents.

Most of Mexico’s states, as well as the Federal District, (Mexico City), have some provisions against animal cruelty. However, only the Federal District, Michoacan and Quintana Roo officially consider negligence to be an offense as serious as abuse.  Some states focus on farm animals, while others consider only domestic pets.

The key to enacting legislation anywhere is making human beings aware of the fact that animals are sentient (“capable of sensing and feeling”). They are subject to the same forces that affect humans, such as fear and pain. They have emotions, such as anger and joy. Though how they “sense” things may not be the same as humans, it is scientifically proven that in their society there are behavioral norms, and there are families. Yes, they care about one another, especially about their offspring.

Hazel frequently posts notices on Facebook, encouraging individuals who witness cases of animal abuse to report them to the authorities. She also posts photographs of individuals who have been properly prosecuted under the new law.

Thanks to the new law, it’s very easy to notify authorities of animal abuse.

Just dial 911.