Stray dogs get their own slum in Brazil

A dog is seen in its house at the NGO Sociedade Amiga dos Animais (Friend of Animals Society), in Caxias do Sul, southern Brazil May 19, 2010. The Society has helped about 1,600 dogs and some 200 cats that were found abandoned by building them houses. REUTERS/Bruno Domingos

CAXIAS DO SUL, Brazil (Reuters) - Hundreds of tightly packed zinc-roofed shacks dot a hillside slum, one of thousands of “favelas” that are home to samba stars, drug lords and millions of poor Brazilians.

But this slum in the southern city of Caxias do Sul is a home for dogs, not humans.

Without enough money to build a proper shelter for 1,600 abandoned pooches, the humane organization So Ama, or “Just Love,” keeps the animals chained to an array of about 1,000 small dog houses that look like the Brazilian slums made famous by movies such as “City of God.”

“We started out with the naivete of wanting to change the world, and the project just kept getting bigger, so unfortunately this is all we have to offer them,” said Natasha Oselame, head of marketing for the organization.

She laments that the dogs -- along with some 200 cats -- have to live in such conditions.

Favelas, which are a common sight throughout Brazil’s major cities, are home to millions of urban poor and rural migrants who leave the countryside seeking jobs. Many of the slums are plagued by violence linked to drug trafficking.

Like in human shantytowns, the main challenge facing the dog favela is making ends meet. Oselame says costs, including veterinarian’s fees and 13 tonnes of pet food a month, are far greater than the donations and the roughly $14,000 she receives monthly from the municipal government.

Reporting by Bruno Domingos; Writing by Brian Ellsworth; Editing by Will Dunham