Caught in a spiraling economic crisis, Venezuelans are suffering. Water is rationed, jobs are scarce, and people are literally starving. Given the dire circumstances, many families have been forced to abandon their pets. Increasingly, the streets of Caracas are filled with mangy, emaciated dogs, while animal shelters are pushed to capacity.
The employees of the Famproa dog shelter — Maria Silva, Milena Cortes, Maria Arteaga, Jackeline Bastidas, and Gissy Abello — in Los Teques, Venezuela. | (REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins)
In the hills outside of Caracas, the Framproa dog shelter sees people come as often as every few hours to drop off their dogs or hand over strays. Even pedigree breeds aren't immune to the crisis — in two weeks, Framproa received nine poodles. In August 2016, Reuters photographer Carlos Garcia Rawlins traveled to the Framproa shelter to photograph the abandoned pets.
The dogs are indeed a sorry bunch — ribs poking through patched fur; a few even missing limbs — but Rawlins sets them on a crate, shines a spotlight on them, and manages to capture their noble essence.
Below, a look at Venezuela's forgotten pets alongside their harrowing backstories.
Cachorron, meaning big 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)
Petete has spent more than eight years in the shelter. "When [Petete] 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," Silva said. | (REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins)
Duke is a recent addition. He was left tied outside the shelter. "He did not have a bad temper, but the bigger dogs always attacked him," Silva said. A week after being photographed, he escaped from his kennel and was killed during a fight. | (REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins)
Cucurucha 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," Silva said. | (REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins)
Oscar, named for 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 a plastic bottle," Silva said. | (REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins)
Atro, short for "atropelledo," meaning 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. | (REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins)
Tomy is a recent addition. "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," Silva said. | (REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins)
Pintica, meaning spotty. "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," Silva said. Pintica died the week after the photo was taken. | (REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins)
El mocho, meaning mutilated, was given that name because he lost a leg after being run 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," Silva said. | (REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins)