Dogs in Mexico

Dogs in Mexico

5 June 2015 Family & Pets 93

The Mexican Attitude

For any animal lover who travels to or lives in Mexico, there are few harder subjects to deal with than the state of dogs in this country. Anyone who has driven around the countryside or spent any time in the Yucatan pueblos has seen far too many starving, mangy or neglected dogs. Fortunately, the dog situation in Merida and Yucatan seems to be undergoing a change over the last few years. Nowadays, there is a real dog park in Merida. There are Yucatecans actually walking their dogs and volunteering at dog shelters. This change can probably be attributed to the tireless work of many people, expatriates and Yucatecans alike, who have participated in Spay and Neuter clinics, put up billboards about caring for animals, and who have proposed and seen through the introduction of laws against animal abuse.

There is an entire segment of Mexican society that treats pets, especially dogs, the same way they are treated in the US or Europe. They are valued family pets, given their vaccinations, taken to the vet when they are sick, groomed regularly and loved as sentient beings.

The poorer Mexicans consider dogs a nuisance, an extra mouth to feed and often a dangerous animal to be avoided. Conversely, they might see dogs as a cheap home alarm system. And so dogs are often tied up and left barking, or left starving and often sick. Because of the way they are treated, they can be dangerous and sometimes should be avoided.

Spay and Neutering Dogs

The disconnect here is that Mexicans in general do not approve of sterilizing their dogs (it's a Catholic thing, we hear...) and/or they can't afford it. Over the last few years, the Spay and Neuter Clinics of Merida, Progreso and the rest of Yucatan have taken hold both in reality and in the minds of everyone in Yucatan. Spaying and neutering animals is becoming less anathema as a general idea, but still is often something that an individual Yucatecan may not want to do for their own pets.

Which brings us to AFAD. In Spanish, AFAD stands for Albergue Fransiscano del Animal Desprotegido. In English, that is Franciscan Shelter for Unprotected Animals. The woman who runs it is a woman named Lidia Saleh. She runs the shelter, which consists of a large plot of land which was donated to this cause. AFAD started with a two-room house that Lidia eventually fixed up to accommodate caring for a growing number of dogs. The dogs have covered cages with concrete floors. The shelter rescues dogs and cats from the streets and also takes dogs and cats whose owners no longer want them.

A Visit to AFAD

On the day we visited, years ago, one of the AFAD rescues was a big Staffordshire Bull Terrier who had apparently been used for fighting. He still sported a few cuts that were healing, but his disposition was sweet and loving with humans. Our photo shows him sitting on his new mat that we had just brought to him and thanking me in his own doggy way. Another one of AFAD's rescues that day was a purebred Doberman who was given to AFAD because he was 6 years old and his owner did not want to have to deal with him getting old and dying. Obviously, he was nowhere near death, but he was also not acclimated to other dogs, so he has to stay in a pen by himself.

Most of the dogs stay together in the main pen. Last time we were there, there were about 30 grown dogs, including beautiful golden labs, mutts, a dalmation and about 15 puppies. There were a few sick dogs that are being cared for and nursed back to health as well. The cats and kittens were kept in a separate location. What surprised us the most was how friendly, gentle and easygoing all these dogs are. We've gone into the main pen a few times now to meet and greet the dogs, and they all just want to be loved, petted and scratched behind the ears. There hasn't been any fighting or growling and they all seem pretty happy. They certainly did not seem like frightening or scary street dogs.

The shelter at the time was staffed full time with one person who worked hard to keep it clean, and fed the dogs, as well as watched over the dogs being nursed back to health. Lidia even then was busily promoting AFAD to the Spanish-speaking population so that Meridanos looking for a dog would think about AFAD and come rescue one from the shelter instead of buying one in a store. Even then, she carefully checked out the new owners and their homes to be sure that each dog was going to a better place.

Adopt a Dog in Merida Yucatan

If you are interested in adopting a dog or a cat, we encourage you to call AFAD or Evolucion (linked below) and arrange to meet the dogs there. Or just drop by between the hours of 10 in the morning and 6 pm.


If you would like to volunteer, AFAD would always like people to come and play with the dogs. And dogs like the Doberman need to be walked... a perfect job for a volunteer. If you are too busy to walk a dog, but you want to help, AFAD always needs donations. Not just money, but things like dog and cat food, bones and chew toys, blankets and towels (to line the boxes that they sleep in so they can stay warm at night), medicines, shampoos, etc. They are also hoping to build more kennels, so any sort of construction materials are welcome donations as well.

It would also be a big help if an English-speaking person here in Merida would help Lidia with her fundraising efforts. Just running the shelter and improving it so that it can help more dogs is heart-breaking and back-breaking work. Lidia also needs to organize dinners and other fundraisers to raise the money. If you are interested in donating money to the organization, please do so through the Paypal donation button at the end of this article.

For more information, check AFAD's website or their Facebook page, where you can see photos of dogs that are up for adoption on occasion. Or you can email at or call the shelter at 999-920-5019 or call Lidia on her cel phone at 044 999 947 6319. If you ask, Lidia can send you a full list of the medicines, supplies and other things that the shelter would like donated. *Anything* is appreciated and will be put to good use. So don't throw old towels, moving blankets or throw rugs away if they get ruined. Wash them as best you can and donate them to AFAD.

If you want to drop by, you will find the shelter on the road to Cholul, just past the Periferico, on the left across from the University Modelo. Just look for this sign. For more information on AFAD, please read their website here (in both Spanish and English). About halfway down the page, there is a list of items that you can donate that would be greatly appreciated.

The animals thank you in advance for your time, attention and kind consideration.

* * * * *

If you wish to donate money to AFAD, you may do so on their website.

Lidia and AFAD are not the only one taking on the issue of caring for the "unprotected animals" in the Yucatan, but they are one of the two most established groups in Merida. Other organizations that are helping animals in the Yucatan include:


  • May 6 years ago

    Where i live i always see so many dogs in the street. I wish i could help them but there is no shelter. I don't know what to do . Im i suppose to just watch them live like that or find a way to help them. Please tell me if there's a way to help these poor animals.

  • Dawn 6 years ago

    Dogs in Seybaplaya. I was there yesterday and saw the usual mix of stray/half stray looking dogs but one in particular needs help and I was wondering if you know of any shelters in the area of Campeche?

  • Rogelio Hinojosa 7 years ago

    Hi, I saw your website and I commend you for the work you are doing and for the work AFAD is also doing. I will start contributing as much as I can as frequently as I can. At this time, unfortunately, I am not looking for a dog or to offer my service as a volunteer. I have an unusual case and maybe you have an insight that can help me. I have three medium-sized dogs (two males and one female). For reason that would be hard to explain in this posting, I need to ship one of them to Progreso, Yucatan. Do you know if there is any airline in Mexico that has a dog or pet shipping service? I would probably have to fly my dog to either Merida or Cancun, but I do not know if there such a service. I am just beginning to investigate this matter and I thought you might some input. Thank you in advance for any suggestions you can give me.

  • Ginni 7 years ago

    Not getting pets sterilized is, like you say, because they don't have the money, or I would add, it can also be a reflection of various cultural attitudes from a machismo attitude that is aghast at the thought of neutering any male, to a cultural love of babies of all kinds. Perhaps the strongest pull of undereducated and underdeveloped cultures of all creeds (including our own, generations ago) is that a people wouldn't consider getting any kind of professional medical care for animals because they just don't see them as members of the family like most of us reading this do. Note how the age-old transcultural pejoratives of calling someone a son-of-a-bitch, a bitch, a pig, etc., assumes these animals are low enough to associate with outcasts.
    I would not at all say "it's a Catholic thing" because the sterilization of animals is nowhere prohibited in the Catholic catechism or ever preached against from the pulpit--and I have been listening to weekly homilies for 57 years. I went to college partially in Ireland which is about as Catholic as the pope, and never saw neglected dogs running free, mangy and pregnant there, nor did I see it in Catholic southern Germany. People who have been to Muslim countries described to me similar sad situations in regard to dogs that I too have seen in Mexico. I think it comes down to having the place of mind to consider animal welfare once a civilizing level of economics and education has been achieved.

    • Working Gringa 7 years ago

      Thank you, Ginni. Very thoughtful and I think probably correct.

  • Dawn 7 years ago

    I am visiting Tulum on Feb.21, 2016. I would like to bring supplies that I can put in my suitcase. I am also thinking of adopting while there. I will be there for 7 days. What is the adoption fee? Also I am flying on Viva Aeorbus. Has anyone ever brought a pup/dog back on that airline? Thanks so much. Great work !

  • emiley 8 years ago

    i worry about my dog shes with my friend in mexico and my friends name is monse rat plz help me I nead to know if my dog is safe so plz help me

  • Working Gringos 8 years ago

    Jenny, you can donate your time or money to either AFAD or Evolución, both linked at the bottom left of each page here, under Compañeros. These are both worthy animal shelters, privately run, that always need donations and take care of a LOT of dogs, and some cats too.

  • Jenny Brown 8 years ago

    I am from Ontario, Canada and on visiting the Mayan Ruins was heartbroken at the state these poor dogs were in. I would like Ontario, Canada to be more aware as we are animal lovers. Can we help in any way?

    • Donna 7 years ago

      Hi Jenny-
      I recently returned from a trip to Playa del Carmen and saw so many neglected dogs looking for food. I was just heartbroken to see a sweet dog limping from a broken leg. That was at Ek Balam. At the time I had no idea how to help and was leaving to go back home to Seattle. I am seriously thinking of starting a coordinated effort to help these overlooked and deserving animals. If you are interested, send me an email.

  • Working Gringos 9 years ago

    If he is that mini, you might be able to carry him on in a carrier. Otherwise, you'll have to rent a car or get a ride from someone. There is no other way that I know of... anyone else have ideas?

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