Last year I received a petition regarding the work of a Costa Rican artist who supposedly used a dying street dog as part of an exhibition in Nicaragua. The dog was tied up as part of the exhibit and may have died while on exhibit. Or maybe not. No one seems to know for sure. But the petition insisted that the artist should be punished and suggested that he had been invited to participate in the Central American biennale due to this exhibit. Some versions of the petition even suggested that he planned to repeat the exhibition of a dying dog, which is an oddly specific claim considering that no one was able to even document that the original exhibition had occurred. I emailed friends in Costa Rica and they concluded that a sick dog had been taken off the street as part of the show, but that no one knew what became of the dog, and that it was possible the dog had died, but there was no evidence that this was anyone's intention. The gallery owner insisted that the dog had been fed while there and was only tied up for a few hours during the exhibition.
In the past month or so, the petition has been making the rounds again, with even more hyperbolic claims. In one version, it took place in Buenas Aires. In another, some other South American country. The focus of the petition is always to punish the artist and have him withdrawn from the biennale. This seems misguided to me. There are starving dogs on the streets all over Nicaragua and Costa Rica. And the United States, for that matter. It is always strange when people take up the cause of a single dog while ignoring the larger issue, which is all of the starving dogs that were not on display that night. More troubling is the number of inaccuracies in the petition's claim. Several times I have emailed the person who has sent the petition along and suggested that it is misleading and therefore should not be signed. This, of course, gets a nasty response.
But why is it that suddenly, a year later, the world cares about this dog? Not surprisingly, a number of the organizations who have latched onto this cause are less sympathetic about animals in their own backyards. In particular, I have noticed that several of these organizations are also those who endorse euthanizing all pit bulls. They are also known for latching on to any cause that can lend them some attention and financial contributions.
That said, Animal People has an interesting update on how this incident has inspired discussion of introducing a humane law to Nicaragua. You can read the story, reprinted at Ed Bok's blog for Los Angeles Animal Services.
Animal People, based in Washington State, bills itself as "news for people who care about animals." But not pit bulls. They hate pit bulls and frequently misreport statistics to support their claims. Maybe they don't think pit bulls are animals?
Also, if you want to help animals in Costa Rica (and other Central American countries), I recommend The McKee Project, which is featured in my book Dogs I Have Met.