Saturday, September 29, 2012

Considering Cat Control

One advantage of our Buenos Aires apartment is that, in Palermo, it has access to some of the city’s biggest open spaces. We are just minutes from the sprawling Parque 3 de Febrero, and even closer to the Jardín Zoológico (city zoo) and the Jardín Botánico, the classic botanical gardens designed by French landscape architect Charles Thays (pictured above). In a neighborhood where our nine-story building is one of the smaller structures, the availability of green areas contrasts dramatically with densely built areas like the traditional Microcentro, where constructions of lesser or greater antiquity cover virtually ever square foot.
Nevertheless, those open spaces have some shortcomings. Maintenance of the lawns and trees is less than perfect (though better than in many other parts of town).  The worst drawback, though, is the infestation of feral felines in the Jardín Botánico where, said a source that I can’t locate at present, more than 200 ownerless cats survive on seven hectares. It’s not the only place where Porteños abandon kittens that, as fast-growing adults, kill birds that frequent the grounds, but it’s the most conspicuous one.
The problems go beyond that, however, as uncontrolled cats are also a public health hazard. Adjacent to the Botánico, Plaza Intendente Casares (pictured above) is another public park where the clawed creatures sneak through the fences to roam at night and, until recently, they used the sandy playground, where children frolicked in the daytime, as a litter box. Fortunately, since a recent remodel, a cat-proof fence now surrounds that playground.

According to a recent article in the city daily Clarín, there are more than 100,000 orphan dogs and cats in Buenos Aires. This led Ina Bancalari, president of the Sociedad Protectora de Animales Sarmiento (an animal shelter), to comment that “If one of  every 30 of the city’s three million inhabitants adopted one, there would be no homeless animals.”
In our neighborhood, street dogs are no problem, though thoughtless dog owners often leave the sidewalk splattered with canine soretes. The city’s paseaperros (dog walkers) are often more responsible in this regard than the apartment dwellers whose dogs they exercise.

As a dog owner and lover myself, I usually carry a plastic bag or two with me and, when I see someone’s purebred defecating on the sidewalk, I smilingly hand them one with a polite “Se te cayó algo” (“You dropped something”). Usually they get the point.

In other parts of the city, street dogs can be an issue, but in Palermo it’s almost exclusively cats. I have my doubts that either adoption or the “solution” of neutering them and returning them to their point of capture, so often suggested in the United States, will be anywhere near sufficient to solve the problem.

Tango by the River
As announced recently, there’s been a postponement of my digital slide lecture on Buenos Aires at Tango by the River in Sacramento, which will now take place Friday, October 26th, at 6 p.m.
Limited to a maximum of 50 people, the event will also include tango performances; admission costs $10 at the door, or $8 in advance. I have spoken here several times before, and we always sell out, so plan in advance. Signed copies of my Moon Handbooks on Argentina, Buenos Aires, Chile and Patagonia will be available at discount prices.

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