Struggling to feed families, Venezuelans abandon pets

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Venezuela's abandoned pets
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Venezuela's abandoned pets
(L-R) Maria Silva, Milena Cortes, Maria Arteaga, Jackeline Bastidas and Gissy Abello pose for a picture at the Famproa dogs shelter where they work, in Los Teques, Venezuela, August 25, 2016. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins
Enfermera is pictured at the Famproa dogs shelter in Los Teques, Venezuela August 18, 2016. Enfermera (Nurse) was given that name because she was rescued by a nurse outside of a hospital. "She suffered a stroke and although she never recovered completely, she is a very good guard dog. She lives outside of the shelter and when someone approaches, she starts barking," said Maria Silva who takes care of dogs at the shelter. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins 
Sonrisa is pictured at the Famproa dogs shelter in Los Teques, Venezuela August 18, 2016. "Sonrisa (smile), was given that name, because when someone approached her, she was frightened as if she were being beaten, but showing her teeth as if were smiling," said Maria Silva who takes care of dogs at the shelter. "She live outside the shelter and likes to interact with everybody, but she barks a lot. She is one of the guard dogs of the place. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins 
Oscar is pictured at the Famproa dogs shelter in Los Teques, Venezuela August 18, 2016. His name is a reference to Oscar Mayer, the hot dog brand. "He has spent many years living in the shelter, but is super grumpy, barks a lot, and if he does not know someone he will attempt to bite. Oscar does not like to interact with other dogs and the only way to see him happy is when somebody gives him bread to eat or when he plays with plastic bottle," said Maria Silva who takes care of dogs at the shelter. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins 
El mocho is pictured at the Famproa dogs shelter in Los Teques, Venezuela August 18, 2016. El Mocho (Mutilated) was given that name because he lost a leg after being ran over. "He used to live in a kennel inside the shelter, but a few months ago escaped and now likes living on the street in front of the shelter. He has a very bad temper, he always runs behind bikes, barks at cars and bites people who walk near him," said Maria Silva who takes care of dogs at the shelter. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins 
Pastorais pictured at the Famproa dogs shelter in Los Teques, Venezuela August 18, 2016. Pastora (shepherd) was given that name because she looks like a German shepherd. "She is very calm and never fights with anyone, but she is afraid of people. When someone approaches her, she immediately reacts as if they were going to beat her," said Maria Silva who takes care of dogs at the shelter. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins 
Mama is pictured at the Famproa dogs shelter in Los Teques, Venezuela August 18, 2016. Mama (mother) was given that name because she was left in front of the shelter with her puppies. "All of them were taken for adoption but nobody wanted to take her. Mama is old and almost blind so she does not leave the place where she sleeps and does not share with any other dogs," said Maria Silva who takes care of dogs at the shelter. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins 
Cachorron is pictured at the Famproa dogs shelter in Los Teques, Venezuela August 18, 2016. Cachorron (Big puppy) was given his name because he never matured and behaves as if he were still a puppy. "He does not like to leave the area where he sleeps. Even if the door was left open, he would not go out in the street. On one occasion a family wanted to adopt him, but it was impossible to make him walk out of the shelter," said Maria Silva who takes care of dogs at the shelter. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins 
Carita is pictured at the Famproa dogs shelter in Los Teques, Venezuela August 18, 2016. "She arrived at the shelter almost dead and completely covered with scabies, to the point that her face bled. Carita is very aggressive, attacks any dog who is close and during fights has killed several. So now she has to live locked in a kennel," said Maria Silva who takes care of dogs at the shelter. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins 
Gus is pictured at the Famproa dogs shelter in Los Teques, Venezuela August 18, 2016. Gus is one of the dogs that has been at the shelter for a very long time. "There was a family that used to love him, and brought him food every day, but since two months ago they have not returned to the shelter. He has a bad temper and likes to fight with others during mealtime," said Maria Silva who takes care of dogs at the shelter. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins 
Gusaniao is pictured at the Famproa dogs shelter in Los Teques, Venezuela August 18, 2016. Gusaniao (wormy) was left almost dead in a box outside the shelter a week before being photographed. "He was full of worms, literally, eating him alive, but after a week of medication and care, he finally started to eat well and is recovering," said Maria Silva who takes care of dogs at the shelter. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins
Alvaro is pictured at the Famproa dogs shelter in Los Teques, Venezuela August 18, 2016. "He was brought to the shelter by a neighbour called Alvaro after he saw a car run him over. He was in a very bad condition and almost died, but instead of putting him down, it was decided to give him a few days and wait to see if he could recover," said Maria Silva who takes care of dogs at the shelter. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins 
Brisa is pictured at the Famproa dogs shelter in Los Teques, Venezuela August 18, 2016. Brisa was given her name because she was found in an area called Brisa de Oriente. "She was one of the most spoiled in the shelter, but barks at everything all the time," said Maria Silva who takes care of dogs at the shelter. Two days after being photographed, Brisa was adopted by a family. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins 
Reuters is pictured at the Famproa dogs shelter in Los Teques, Venezuela August 18, 2016. She was given her name because she was brought to the shelter when Reuters photographer Carlos Garcia Rawlins was working on a photo project there. "She is a puppy, super happy, with a lot of energy and wants to play with the others all the time even if they are bigger than her," said Maria Silva who takes care of dogs at the shelter. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins 
Atro is pictured at the Famproa dogs shelter in Los Teques, Venezuela August 18, 2016. Atro was given his name for Atropelledo (run over). "A few years ago someone left him outside the shelter after he was hit by a car. He underwent several surgeries to try to save his leg, but it was not possible. Since then he has been very lonely, he does not like to interact with other dogs," said Maria Silva who takes care of dogs at the shelter. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins
Pichurra is pictured at the Famproa dogs shelter in Los Teques, Venezuela August 18, 2016. Pichurra is very old and has been at the shelter for a long time. "She is extremely calm, never fights with anyone, nor does she bark. In fact, at mealtimes the volunteers have to be very alert, because if any other dog steals her food she would not complain," said Maria Silva who takes care of dogs at the shelter. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins 
Paton is pictured at the Famproa dogs shelter in Los Teques, Venezuela August 18, 2016. Paton (big foot), has been given that name because his legs are very long making him a little clumsy when he walks. "Everyone who comes to the shelter, falls in love with him because he is extremely loving, always happy and wants to play. He always wants to be near people," said Maria Silva who takes care of dogs at the shelter. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins 
Duke is pictured at the Famproa dogs shelter in Los Teques, Venezuela August 18, 2016. Duke was left tied outside the shelter about five months ago. "He did not have a bad temper, but the bigger dogs always attacked him," said Maria Silva who takes care of dogs at the shelter. The week after being photographed, he escaped from his kennel and was killed during a fight. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins 
Ojitos is pictured at the Famproa dogs shelter in Los Teques, Venezuela August 16, 2016. Ojitos (eyes) has been given that name because she has blue eyes. "She arrived at the shelter two years ago and from the very first moment has always been very loving. She never fights with the others. She has been offered up for adoption on many occasions, but no one wanted to keep her," said Maria Silva who takes care of dogs at the shelter. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins 
Minnie is pictured at the Famproa dogs shelter in Los Teques, Venezuela August 16, 2016. Minnie gets her name from Minnie Mouse. "She is not very loving but is one of the leaders in the shelter. She always bites people's feet when they walk by her,"said Maria Silva who takes care of dogs at the shelter. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins 
Tomy is pictured at the Famproa dogs shelter in Los Teques, Venezuela August 18, 2016. "He arrived at the shelter on a Sunday two months ago. A man on a motorcycle left him saying that he had found him in the middle of the street and did not want to leave him there, but strangely, the man knew his name," said Maria Silva who takes care of dogs at the shelter. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins 
Pequi is pictured at the Famproa dogs shelter in Los Teques, Venezuela August 16, 2016. "Pequi is neither loving but nor aggressive, she is indifferent. She has spent almost a year in the shelter," said Maria Silva who takes care of dogs at the shelter. "But it is impossible to lock her in because she escapes." REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins 
Lucho is pictured at the Famproa dogs shelter in Los Teques, Venezuela August 16, 2016. "Someone left him with his three brothers in a cardboard box outside the shelter a year and a half ago. Two of them died and one was adopted by a family. He is a favorite at the shelter but he is an escape artist, he has the ability to get out of anywhere," said Maria Silva who takes care of dogs at the shelter. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins 
Pintica is pictured at the Famproa dogs shelter in Los Teques, Venezuela August 16, 2016. Pintica (spotty) was given that name because of her skin. "She was the posh girl of the shelter, she didn't like to get her feet wet. All dogs used to attack her and because of that, she did not like to come out of her home," said Maria Silva who takes care of dogs at the shelter. Pintica died the following week after the photo was taken. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins 
Celo poses for a picture at the Famproa dogs shelter in Los Teques, Venezuela August 18, 2016. Celo (on heat) was given her name because she was left tied outside the shelter in the middle of her fertile stage. "When the volunteers arrived, the place was a mess. All the males, although they were castrated, were going crazy," said Maria Silva who takes care of dogs at the shelter. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins 
Bolibomba is pictured at the Famproa dogs shelter in Los Teques, Venezuela August 16, 2016. "She arrived at the shelter two years ago and is very playful. She loves water. Whenever she can, she gets inside a bucket or bowl with water. If she lived in a house with a pool, she would never come out of it," said Maria Silva who takes care of dogs at the shelter. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins 
Nazareth is pictured at the Famproa dogs shelter in Los Teques, Venezuela August 16, 2016. "She is both independent and feisty. She barks at all dogs and has a bad temper. When it is mealtime, no one can be near her," said Maria Silva who takes care of dogs at the shelter. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins 
Mancha is pictured at the Famproa dogs shelter in Los Teques, Venezuela August 16, 2016. Mancha (stain) was given that name because of the black spot on her face. "She has bitten almost everybody in the shelter. She was not loving, on the contrary, she fought everyone and at mealtime nobody could be near her," said Maria Silva who takes care of dogs at the shelter. She died the following week after the photo was taken. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins 
Cucurucha is pictured at the Famproa dogs shelter in Los Teques, Venezuela August 16, 2016. She has never been given up for adoption because she is very nervous. When someone approaches, she begins to whine and react immediately. She never fights with anyone, but she likes stealing food from the other dogs," said Maria Silva who takes care of dogs at the shelter. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins 
Petete is pictured at the Famproa dogs shelter in Los Teques, Venezuela August 16, 2016. Petete has spent over eight years in the shelter. "When the dog arrived, he had worms and sores on a leg. It was hard to heal and even when it did, his leg never fully functioned again. He is loving, but only until it is meal time, because then he fights with everyone and bites anyone who comes close," said Maria Silva who takes care of dogs at the shelter. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins 
Sonrisa is pictured at the Famproa dogs shelter in Los Teques, Venezuela August 16, 2016. "Sonrisa (smile), was given that name, because when someone approached her, she was frightened as if she were being beaten, but showing her teeth as if were smiling," said Maria Silva who takes care of dogs at the shelter. Sonrisa died the following week after the photo was taken. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins
Mia is pictured at the Famproa dogs shelter in Los Teques, Venezuela August 16, 2016. About a year ago she was left at the door of the shelter. "She was adopted by a family, but they later returned her because supposedly she did not adapt to live in an apartment," said Maria Silva who takes care of dogs at the shelter. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins 
Aguja is pictured at the Famproa dogs shelter in Los Teques, Venezuela August 16, 2016. Aguja (needle) was given the name because of the shape of her body. She is skinny and long. "She is very happy and loves to jump at people so that they carry her and caress her like a baby," said Maria Silva who takes care of dogs at the shelter. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins 
Tuneco is pictured at the Famproa dogs shelter in Los Teques, Venezuela August 16, 2016. Tuneco was ill and died the following week after the photo was taken. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins 
La China is pictured at the Famproa dogs shelter in Los Teques, Venezuela August 16, 2016. La China died the following week after the photo was taken. "The loving but fearful dog did not like to leave the space where she slept, even to eat," said Maria Silva who takes care of dogs at the shelter. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins 
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LOS TEQUES, Venezuela, Sept 7 (Reuters) - Venezuelans struggling to feed their families, let alone their pets, during the country's deep economic crisis are increasingly abandoning emaciated dogs in streets, public parks and makeshift shelters because they no longer can afford to care for them.

At one dilapidated sanctuary in the hills outside the capital Caracas, hundreds of scrawny dogs bark and claw through wire mesh to scavenge for food in the streets and forest land nearby.

"The crisis has hit hard," said Maria Arteaga, 53, who began looking after stray dogs in her own home before founding the shelter in Los Teques, the capital of Miranda state.

"People are abandoning their dogs because they can't afford food and because they're leaving the country."

Every few hours, vehicles pull up and people hand over dogs, including pedigrees. Volunteers arrive daily to donate and help distribute food to the animals.

SEE ALSO: Venezuelan women seek sterilizations as crisis sours child-rearing

Though Arteaga does not have a formal register, she has seen an increase in the number of dogs arriving in recent months, with nine poodles dropped off just in the past two weeks.

Suffering through a third year of recession, Venezuelans are experiencing shortages of food and medicine, and are finding salaries wrecked by triple-digit inflation.

A 20-kilogram (44-pound) bag of dog food, for example, costs around $50 at the black-market exchange rate, nearly double its price in the United States and out of reach for many in Venezuela, where the minimum wage is $23 per month.

So sanctuaries like Arteaga's are proliferating, while ever more stray dogs turn up on the streets. Pet shops are struggling to stock shelves with food and medicine.

The plight of the pets comes despite pushes in the past by the socialist government to protect animal rights. In 2013, for example, President Nicolas Maduro set up Mission Nevado, named for independence hero Simon Bolivar's dog, to rescue and protect strays.

SEE ALSO: Venezuela food shortage leaves zoo animals hungry

But now even police are rationing food in order to feed their sniffer dogs.

On one recent day, systems engineer Maria Rodriguez, 33, said she came across a stray dog in Los Teques and her 12-year-old son begged her to keep it to accompany the family's border collie.

"Sadly our income isn't enough for us to eat, so how can I give food to two or three dogs?" Rodriguez said, after dropping off the animal at Arteaga's sanctuary.

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