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People In Venezuela Are Abandoning Their Dogs Because They Can’t Afford Food

Photographer Carlos Garcia Rawlins captured portraits of animals who have been left in a shelter as the country faces an unprecedented economic crisis.

Posted on September 8, 2016, at 11:39 a.m. ET

Dog owners in Venezuela have been forced to abandon their pets as the country's crippling economic crisis has meant they can no longer afford to keep them.

Carlos Garcia Rawlins / Reuters

The ongoing situation has led to triple-digit inflation and severe shortages of essential supplies like food and medicines.

This has meant that ordinary Venezuelans have been forced to abandon their pets as they can no longer afford to feed them.

While the minimum wage in the socialist country stands at $23 per month, a 20-kilogram packet of dog food can go for $50 on the black market — double the price in the United States.

Reuters photographer Carlos Garcia Rawlins and journalist Girish Gupta traveled to the Famproa shelter in Los Teques, in the hills near the capital, Caracas, to visit some of the dogs that have been suffering during the country's plight.

Carlos Garcia Rawlins / Reuters

The shelter's founder, Maria Arteaga, 53, told the reporters she has seen a noticeable increase in dogs arriving over the last few months — animals are dropped off every few hours, she said. Nine poodles were left there in the last two weeks alone.

"The crisis has hit hard," Arteaga said. "People are abandoning their dogs because they can't afford food and because they're leaving the country."

During their visit to the shelter, Rawlins took moving portraits of the animals, while one of the center's staff, Maria Silva, told the dogs' stories.

Celo (On Heat)

Carlos Garcia Rawlins / Reuters

Celo was given her name because she was left outside the shelter in the middle of her fertile stage. "When the volunteers arrived, the place was a mess," Silva said. "All the males, although they were castrated, were going crazy."

Enfermera (Nurse)

Carlos Garcia Rawlins / Reuters

"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."

Pintica (Spotty)

Carlos Garcia Rawlins / Reuters

"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."

Gusaniao (Wormy)

Carlos Garcia Rawlins / Reuters

"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."

La China

Carlos Garcia Rawlins / Reuters

"The loving but fearful dog did not like to leave the space where she slept, even to eat." La China died in the week after the photo was taken.

El Mocho (Mutilated)

Carlos Garcia Rawlins / Reuters

El Mocho was given his name after he lost his leg in a road accident. "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."

Pastora (Shepherd)

Carlos Garcia Rawlins / Reuters

"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."


Carlos Garcia Rawlins / Reuters

"He was brought to the shelter by a neighbor 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."

Ojitos (Eyes)

Carlos Garcia Rawlins / Reuters

Ojitos was given her name because of her 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."


Carlos Garcia Rawlins / Reuters

"He did not have a bad temper, but the bigger dogs always attacked him."


Carlos Garcia Rawlins / Reuters

"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."


Carlos Garcia Rawlins / Reuters

"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."


Carlos Garcia Rawlins / Reuters

"She was one of the most spoiled in the shelter, but barks at everything all the time." Brisa was adopted two days after this photograph.


Carlos Garcia Rawlins / Reuters

Pichurra is an elderly dog and a long-term resident of the shelter: "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."


Carlos Garcia Rawlins / Reuters

"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."


Carlos Garcia Rawlins / Reuters

Mama was left outside the shelter with her litter of 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."


Carlos Garcia Rawlins / Reuters

"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."

Paton (Big foot)

Carlos Garcia Rawlins / Reuters

"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."

A BuzzFeed News investigation, in partnership with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, based on thousands of documents the government didn't want you to see.