Long Ears Have Long Days in Tijuana
While on a trip to San Diego CA, I decided to visit Mexico. I hopped on a trolley, which left me at the border. As I walked across the boarder, images of folk arts, ethnic food and silver jewelry filled my head. I arranged for transportation to a popular boarder town, Tijuana. Upon my arrival to Revolucion, which is the main street in town where tourists shop, I thought I would turn the corner and see wondrous sights. I was wrong. I saw a pitiful donkey being peddled on a street corner for money. For lack of a better comparison, it was as if he was being "pimped" - he was painted with zebra stripes, and forced to stand for long hours on the corner while all different people took their "turn" sitting on him for photos, regardless of height and weight. This fellow had malformed feet and was in obvious pain. As I turned and looked around, and I realized that the entire length of Revolucion was lined with these poor donkeys.
It seemed that the opportunists who were exploiting these kind animals were dying their hairs to create these "zebra stripes". Some people said it was natural, and others told me no. The handlers would saddle the donkeys, back up them up into the shafts of a gaudily decorated cart, then place a chain across the front of the two shafts to prevent them from moving. They were given piles of what looked like alfalfa pellets, but I never saw water.
(more story after photo)
Later that night, as the handlers were preparing to leave, I watched them unsaddle one donkey and was stunned. They loosen the cinch, pull off the saddle and blanket and then they undo their urine collection device - a coffee can, tied around the barrel of the donkey with baling twine, so that the penis hangs in there and they don't urinate on the ground. And the can was not full either. I don't know if they dumped it during intervals, or if they were restricting the amount of water they gave them. Imagine when summer comes and it's really hot, how those donkeys must feel with that hot urine against them, or if they shift their weight and it splash up on them?
A lot of people say that this has been going on for years and is a tourist attraction. Why? I was there in March of 200 and the weather was a bit cool. Imagine a truly hot summer day standing there from morning till night, without being able to move, urinate or defecate freely… I really felt bad about one whose hooves were deformed. I wanted to buy him, and the guy started playing games with me, telling me he was a "rare" white zebra striped donkey and was $2,000.00. I asked for the price on the donkey across the street who had some more color and he said that donkey was only $200, we was not "rare"... I was very displeased with this person's smug grin and really did not know what I could do to help this poor donkey. So, I photographed his feet right in front of the guy and then dealt with my husband, who was talking me out of purchasing the donkey. I kept asking "well what if…" Hubby, being the rational person he is explained we had no where to take him, we would be in CA for an additional seven days, and probably couldn't get over the boarder with him. Later, on the way out of Mexico, I learned that animals could be taken if they were "declared" or "claimed" at the boarder and a tariff was assessed and paid.
We walked around the shopping area for a while, and every time I passed one of these poor donkeys, I had to stop, pet them and offer a few kind words. And each and every single one of their handlers wanted me to "get on the donkey and take a picture"…. Sigh… what is wrong with these people? I am a very large person, and there was no way that those little donkeys could carry my weight comfortably. Oh wait, yeah, they would get $5 out of it. UGH!!!!
Later in the afternoon, as we sat on the balcony of Caesar's Restaurant, I pulled out my video camera, zoomed in the donkey across the street and took some footage.
When I came home, I shared my findings with my fellow rescuers and received mixed responses. The majority did agree that no donkey should be subjected to such long hours of standing under those conditions. A very dear friend sent a letter to PETA, and they received a reply that was encouraging, but not sufficient. I in turn sent out my own e-mail messages to the Mexican government, attaching actual pictures of the donkeys, and was ignored.
I know standing on a corner with a little paint is not bad compared to alot of what we have seen in the rescue aspect of the equine industry, but the Mexican government could regulate this business. They could mandate the use of the appropriate equipment necessary for humane collection of excrement. They could insist that clean water be provided to these animals. They could also place restrictions on the handlers so those animals that are physically unfit to work would not be out on the street. Additionally, height and weight restrictions should be mandated and apply to all customers who want to mount these unfortunate equines for the sake of a "souvenir Polaroid".