There are woolly collies, noble German shepherds, sweet English bulldogs, hysterical poodles, pugs – with frowning foreheads, and big eyes like black marbles – and mongrels, all kinds of mongrels. And poison. There is poison in Parque México.
Nine dogs died from poisoning last week in this green area, where loving dogs is a local pastime. Nine is the official number. But unofficial sources say there have been 18 deaths. One of them supposedly happened in another nearby park, Parque España.
Both parks are located in the upper-middle-class neighborhood of Colonia Condesa, a comfortable area where dogs are adored, cared for, sometimes even groomed and given pedicures. They are not hurt or ignored. They are certainly not poisoned.
The same thing happened 15 years ago. They were eating poisoned meatballs. They would run off like crazy and crash into fences”
José Luis Sánchez, parking valet
Parque México is the scene of the crime. An area specifically designated for dogs in early 2015, equipped with a “hydro-sanitary system and fine clay,” has been sealed off. So has a stretch along the gardens that line up Ozuluama street, because many of the dogs that died came to Parque México that way.
They died quickly: vomiting, convulsions, and in less than an hour after being in the park, death.
Alondra Robles, a maid, is walking Kika outside the park.
“My boss told me to not take her inside again,” she explains.
Manuel Anzaldo, a messenger, was sitting in the park around lunchtime listening to the news of the turbulent process of layoffs at Air France on the radio.
“A dog should not be killed under any circumstances. I definitely disapprove. Prison for the perpetrators. To kill a dog just like that, for no reason... Definitely prison,” he says.
Mexico City’s penal code sets out two-year prison terms for animal abuse. One person has so far been convicted under the law. Now, police officers and other city employees are on watch around Parque Mexico.
“For now they are examining a white powder that we found,” says one of them.
On Monday, Juan Jorge Avilés, a representative from Cuauhtémoc – the administrative district where the park is located – met with members of Mexico City’s College of Veterinarians and the dog shelter Animalia Adopta. Avilés said they will work together to prevent risks.
They died quickly: vomiting, convulsions, and in less than an hour after being in the park, death
“We are taking comprehensive and unprecedented action at the national level,” he said. They have told dog owners to keep them on a short leash when they take them out, to avoid bushes and to keep them from eating anything off the ground.
“With basset hounds, it’s difficult. They are hunters and very stubborn. They snatch the first thing they find,” says Gabriel Garduño, a dog trainer who was in the park.
A basset hound looks up at him, sporting big ears, droopy eyes, a sausage-shaped body and short legs. “But they are fast,” Garduño adds. The trainer also brought along a schnauzer, a Jack Russell terrier, a Mexican Hairless Dog and another Mexican Hairless Dog with a punk mohawk.
Garduño says these dogs are trained to not eat trash off the floor: “We work on them with conditioned reflex techniques.”
A valet on that suspicious stretch along Ozuluama offers up some historical perspective: “The same thing happened 15 years ago. They were eating poisoned meatballs. They would run off like crazy and crash into fences,” José Luis Sánchez.
According to official sources, there are a million dogs living in this huge metropolis. Animal groups put the number as high as two or three million. That official one million leaves behind half-a-ton of droppings every day. Around 18,000 people receive medical care for dog bites every year, while 12,000 dogs are killed every month as part of the anti-rabies program – there has not been a single case of rabies from dog bites in the last seven years. Everything to do with dogs is out of proportion in Mexico City – as is everything else, for that matter.
And then there is the darker side of the story. In 2013, there was a horrific case of wild dogs that attacked five people and left them dead in the space of a month. And now, this much less sinister – albeit unfortunate – situation affecting Mexico City’s upper-class dogs.
Translation by Dyane Jean François.