Honduras: A 40 year perspective on animal welfare and the environment
Updated: May 23, 2019
Pilar Thorn is founder and director of AKI Partner Organization, Helping Hands for Hounds of Honduras.
I came to Honduras 49 years ago as a Peace Corps Volunteer to teach biology at the UNAH (Honduran National Autonomous University), where I taught for 40 years. As a biologist, Honduras was a paradise with its beautiful dense cloud, rain, and dry forests, as well as untouched coral reefs in the second largest reef in the world (after the Great Barrier Reef in Australia) with its rainbow-like fishes. Unfortunately, many of these treasures are being destroyed by cattle ranchers, lumber and mining companies, palm oil plantations, over-fishing, as well as careless divers and boaters (for an example of what is happening, check out this article, https://news.mongabay.com/2018/12/there-are-no-laws-cattle-drugs-corruption-destroying-honduras-unesco-site).
As an animal lover, Honduras was pure hell. Animals were constantly being abandoned, chained, starved, beaten, poisoned, and killed. I started carrying water and dog food in my car to feed street animals. Once my children left Honduras in 1996 to live in the USA, I started to rescue dogs (and some cats, snakes, and birds). That same year, I started Helping Hands for Hounds of Honduras (HHHH).
First I had 5 dogs, then 8, 10, 12, then a "baker's dozen," 15, 20, and up to 25 or more during Easter week and other holidays (when people set off fireworks and dogs run off in terror and many people leave the city and abandon their pets during the holidays). Right now, the HHHH shelter has 21 dogs, 3 cats, and 9 birds. My biologist niece, Nereida Montes de Oca, helped me to rescue animals from her days as a toddler up until her untimely death in 2006. I named the HHHH shelter in her memory, The Nereida Montes de Oca Sanctuary.
I decided to focus my efforts on the dogs and cats that are very bad-off, those with severe illnesses, injuries, and emotional issues, the dogs and cats that owners have given up on--usually they are "thrown out" because owners are unwilling to pay for their care. Sometimes I get these animals from my vet, who calls me in when an owner abandons his or her animal. Sometimes I get a call from a neighbor, or one of my many ex-students who have become animal advocates, or from the general public about a cat, dog, bird, or snake that needs help. I try to give each animal at the Sanctuary individual care and attention like they would receive in a regular home. Some live only for a few days, others have been here for many years, some recover and have been adopted.
Early in 2018, several hundred Hondurans left the country in search of the "American Dream." Then, in early October, several thousand migrants started their walk from Honduras to the US border escaping the rapidly declining situation in Honduras, in part brought on by the illegal 2nd term of Honduran president (dictator) Juan Orlando Hernandez (JOH) after his 4-year term finished at the end of 2017.
With the start of 2018, gas and food prices have steadily increased; people have lost their jobs; poor people trying to survive by selling tortillas, baleadas, fruits, and anything they can find, are harassed and their belongings are stolen or destroyed by corrupt police and soldiers under the orders of JOH. The price of electricity as doubled and tripled with the creation of a new electric company run by JOH.
As an animal rescuer, I have noticed more dogs and cats being abandoned to fend for themselves on the mean streets of Tegucigalpa. There has been a noticeable spike in the number of dead dogs along the sides of the roads or in the middle of the streets. There are also more dogs that have been hit by cars and are dragging themselves along the side of the road. I have also seen more abandoned pregnant dogs and more moms with their small puppies struggling to survive on the streets.
I can only imagine that this increase in abandoned animals is related to all these people leaving this "sinking ship" for a better life that those in the "migrant caravan" see at the end of the line.
The HHHH Sanctuary is unable to shelter all of these newly abandoned animals-we are normally at maximum capacity. So instead, I am helping at another large shelter, outside of Tegucigalpa, that has a lot of space, but doesn't have the staff, time, or funds to provide for the dogs that need intensive care. I visit the shelter frequently, help Linda (the founder) with the rescued dogs, and take dogs that need specialized care back to the Nereida Montes de Oca Sanctuary for HHHH tender loving care!
About 6 weeks ago (end of October), Linda and I rescued an old dog (2 photos below) that I agreed to take to the HHHH Sanctuary. I have to keep her in diapers. She has chronic and constant diarrhea. The vet did a hemogram and treated her with Bactrim and then another antibiotic. She eats non-stop but is still skin and bones. The vet says it is some problem with absorption. She doesn't seem to be suffering, but so far, there's no improvement in sight.
Also from Linda's shelter is this little female puppy whose sister died last night (December 8). The 2 puppies were at her shelter for 10 days or so. I took her to the HHHH Sanctuary becasue she needs shots and needs to be watched closely. I want to make sure she doesn't get whatever got her sister.
Since 2007, AKI has supported HHHH helping us with costs to spay and neuter rescued animals, pay for medicines and vet bills, help with construction costs and food for the animals. HHHH and all the rescued cats and dogs are very grateful for the support of AKI and their donors.