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In Venezuela, pet owners can't afford food for their dog - or themselves

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In Venezuela, pet owners can't afford food for their dog - or themselves
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REUTERS/Guadalupe Pardo
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The crisis in Venezuela has plunged millions of people into poverty and spurred mass migration on an unprecedented scale.

But there are also unexpected victims of the crisis -- the nation's pets.

According to Voluntarios Proteccionistas, an animal rescue non-profit, there are currently more than 3 million stray dogs roaming the streets of Venezuela.

"The crisis has forced people to leave the country and abandon their pets. Others simply abandon them because they can no longer afford to feed them," Alicia Velasco Viso, the president of the non-profit, told Euronews.

Velasco explained that a standard bag of dog food can cost €44 while the average salary is €5 per month, making it impossible for many to keep their pet.

Pets on the menu

Levels of poverty have become so acute that some people now hunt dogs and cats in order to feed themselves.

Nancy Fossi, an animal activist at PRODEFENSA association in Puerto La Cruz, on the Northern coast of Venezuela, told Euronews: “I have seen how people sell dog meat on the outskirts of the municipal market.”

"Some vendors have heads and other dog parts on display," Fossi said. "Other places sell it but they don’t say it’s dog meat," she added. "Many people buy this meat because it is cheap but they do not know its origin."

Last year, a man was arrested for selling dog and lizard meat at the Puerto La Cruz municipal market, Venezuelan newspaper El Nacional reported.

"This practice continues even though no one reports it --here and in other parts of the country,” Fossi said.

In 2017, Venezuela authorities investigated the theft of animals from a zoo in the western state of Zulia that were likely snatched to be eaten, according to Reuters news agency.

"Pets need humanitarian aid, too," Velasco said.

Her case highlights the efforts made by the country's animal lovers to care for pets in spite of extreme conditions, even if she admits it is not easy.

“I take care of 17 dogs and 8 cats,” she said, ”but then I also have my family to take care of.”