It’s a dog’s life

There’s something about the street dogs in Chile’s city, Santiago. They’re healthy and plump with lush coats. Why? Because the community looks after them!

Written by Michael Turtle

Michael Turtle is the founder of Time Travel Turtle. He has been a journalist for more than 20 years and has travelled the world full time since 2011.

Michael Turtle is the founder of Time Travel Turtle and has been travelling full time for a decade.

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Dogs in Santiago, Chile

Oh, to be a dog in Santiago! Never before have I seen strays looked after so well as in Chile’s capital.

Their little doggy faces smile up at you, happy and healthy. Their coats shine and there’s a plumpness to their bodies you don’t normally see in animals on the street.

Woof! A young black labrador has started following me on a walk through the park. He runs through the grass, sniffing the things dogs sniff, but always comes back to my side. He’s adopted me and I enjoy the company and his friendliness.

He doesn’t seem distracted by other people and shows me a faithfulness I don’t deserve.

When I sit down on a bench at one point he sits beside me, waiting for a pat (and, to be fair, probably some food).

Stray dogs in Santiago, Chile
Stray dogs in Santiago, Chile

He won’t get any from me this time but there’s no fear of going hungry. One of the reasons the dogs in Santiago are so healthy is because the locals have taken it on themselves to feed them.

The animals are part of the community, part of the city’s population, and are treated with respect.

Take, for instance, the market at the bus station. It has all the usual stalls… and then one just for dog food so people can pick up some tasty canine treats on their way home.

Stray dogs in Santiago, Chile

Speaking to an American guy who now lives in Santiago, he tells me about how he tried to feed the local dogs one evening.

“I had some leftover meat from lunch so I went down the street to give it to them”, he explains.

“But then a woman came out and started shouting at me. Apparently she likes to feed these ones and they always get the best dog food. She thought my meat wasn’t good enough for them!”

Stray dogs in Santiago, Chile

The dogs happily stroll the streets like they own them, they sit underneath your table at al fresco restaurants, and they play with each other in the park.

Someone (either residents or the government) has even built kennels in the main park so the animals have somewhere to sleep. The dog bowls in front of the kennels seemed to always be well-stocked.

Stray dogs in Santiago, Chile

It’s nice to see a community take such good care of their animals.

Too often you see dogs and cats neglected or abused on the streets.

I suppose it’s easy to just regard them as pests that a city would be better off without. But that says more about the people than the animals, doesn’t it?

44 thoughts on “It’s a dog’s life”

  1. This makes me so happy! Every time I see a stray my heart breaks a little. I’ve adopted two rescues and they are the best. It’s great to see these sweet animals being taken care of the community. Great post!

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  2. It’s awesome to hear how well street animals are cared for – really says something about the spirit of the people who live there. And nice post – it’s always interesting to look at a city for a different perspective – in this case through puppy dog eyes!

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    • Ha ha. I think the dogs were eating better than I was. Not to say the food in Santiago was bad… it was actually really nice. But no one found me and fed it to me! 🙂

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  3. Hey Turtle,
    Your blog reminded me of an Australian movie – Red Dog (its an amazing movie based on real story). Your blog is really inspirational. I don’t like street dogs but I will make sure to feed them whenever I get a chance. Thanks.

    P.S: Hey Turtle – Your blogs are always heart touching; each and every words in your blog go straight into my heart.

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    • I didn’t realise Chile was #2. It makes sense though. It wasn’t what I expected from a South American country. The way they look after their dogs is just one example of a country that seems very comfortable with itself and looks out for the welfare of everyone and everything.

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  4. Ahhh – the dog gangs of Chile; how I miss them! I’ve never been to another country with so many strays. I never noticed that they are well looked after; I don’t think Chile has anything like an RSPCA or Humane Society (correct me if I’m wrong)…

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    • Of course, I should have mentioned the gangs. They love to prowl the streets together and bark at all the other dogs trapped behind fences. He he.
      I haven’t heard about an RSPCA equivalent in Chile… anyone?

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  5. Really heartening to know that there are strays like this, they really need home and care. I hope some people in that place would mind to adopt any street dogs.

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  6. Complete contrast to Belize and Guatemala. Even dogs with tags looked disheveled and flea-ridden. A crying shame to see so many dogs like that.

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    • I guess it’s easy to just ignore the stray animals and live your life around them. But it brings a bit more meaning to a community when they show some compassion like in Santiago.

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  7. Great post! I am planning a move to Chile next year and want to bring my dog, and one of my concerns is how accepting they are of them. This makes me feel so much better!

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  8. Tu viste la parte mas bonita de Santiago, pero a sus alrededores, donde vive la gente pobre, hay muchos perros en pésimas condiciones, desnutridos y muriendo. Que viven en basurales buscando entre medio de la basura y escombros algo para poder comer, pasan frió en invierno y heladas, lluvias, la verdad que lo pasan muy mal. La gente los abandona a su suerte, y mas cuando tienen cachorros, deben sobrevivir. Es una pena, que no hayas visto la verdadera realidad.

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  9. Many of the street dogs in Valparaiso are not so happy and healthy. Owners should be responsible for their pets. There were over 5000 injuries from dog bites in 2010. We could help alleviate this problem by magnatory fines for owners and neutering programs. Lets hold these owners responsible.

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  10. I just came home from visiting Santiago. Yes, most of this article is true. The street dogs wear coats made by volunteers to keep them warm, and
    yes there are empty doghouses so stray dogs have a place to go.

    However, they need to band together and spay and neuter. That is the answer to the stray dogs. Control the populations.

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  11. I live in Santiago, and although what you saw in our streets is real, some of your conclusions aren´t . The food you saw at markets are not intended for feeding street dogs, but a cheaper way to buy food for home pets (instead of buying brand food at pets’ stores or supermarkets). The reason why we have so many dogs at streets is because many families use to abandon their pets. It is very usual to see dogs (even puppies) wandering at suburban areas where their owners go to release them. It’s a pity!!! Fortunately, new generations are more sensible to this matter, and is usual to find adopted dogs and cats at university campuses, where they find love, medical care, vaccinations and food in an safer environment that streets. ¡¡Regards!!

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  12. As a turistic experience it may be fun… As a daily life condition is very bad for the dogs, the people, livestock, and wildlife. Dogs in the street are the main environmental concern in Chile (2018 data). Leave a couple of links… and please dont sell it as an attraction. https://www.uv.cl/images/index/_img_n2f.php?id=5340
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yjqXNvLAiE0&t=1s
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QYQsphe-V04
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ETnRMXxlnVg&t=1s

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