August 29, 2009

Brando: It was a homicide!

By Molly Mednikow (opinion/editorial)

Current news about dogs being utilized in Peruvian medical school brought back sad memories of a wonderful rescue dog named Brando. Brando lived for praise. Once we taught him to “sit,”
he would run circles around me, always performing the sit command when we were face to face. He had so much pride in doing something that he thought would thrill me, and though it was slightly funny to watch his antics, I was thrilled. We shared a special connection.

In memory of Brando

Though it is hard to part with these special dogs, it is also very special knowing they will go to loving homes and have their very own “forever family.” One day we believed that day had come for Brando.

Our adoption contract and adoption procedures follow the guidelines of the Humane Society of the United States and other major animal welfare organizations. We have utilized ASPCA’s “Meet Your Match” program, and instead of bringing prospective adopters out the shelter (which is fairly remote), we meet the person and hopefully other family members to find out what dog would suit them best.

The girl that adopted Brando passed all of our requirements and paid 30 Nuevo Soles for the adoption fee. This is equivalent to about $10 US, but in Peru it is $30, which is not easy for many people to afford. Yet, we believe this fee to be nominal due to the medical care and spay/neuter surgery, and we also believe that if people cannot pay this fee, they will not likely have resources to care for the
pet adequately.

This seemingly responsible and caring University student promised to provide for Brando.

Within hours, we received an anonymous phone call
telling us that Brando was at the University and in bad circumstances. We tried contacting the adopter to no avail, and finally called our lawyer and the police. The situation turned ugly. She claimed she had taken Brando to stay with her grandmother in a far off jungle village. Another anonymous tip informed us that Brando had passed. The perpetrator hired a lawyer, and they found a loophole in our adoption contract. They arrived at our clinic one day with a black street dog that looked nothing like Brando. They left it with us, claiming it was the dog Brando!

Our rescue dogs, as anybody in this field will say, are always remembered in our hearts. We follow up on adoptions, but many people move around in Iquitos, and it is easy to lose track of some animals. My heart broke as I remember teaching Brando to sit using the clicker method. I remember his ASPCA "Meet Your Match" profile as "Constant Companion." We had put more than just time and money into Brando. We gave love and our heart as well.

Since the beginning of Amazon Community Animal Rescue, Education & Safety in 2004, we have worked to educate the community about animal abuse, the link to domestic abuse, and the respect that animals deserve. We have seen a tremendous change over the years.

Early in our history, we shed light on a traveling Circus that paid between 10 and 15 Nuevo Soles ($3 - $5 US) for healthier dogs and cats that would placed, alive, in the tiger cages, providing the tiger’s fresh food and entertainment. We spoke up and encouraged civilian action to protect these innocent dogs and cats this horrific and frightening fate. We lobbied successfully to force government action to prevent this atrocity. The Circus never returned to Iquitos.

When we began, we faced harsh animal cruelty cases: A dog set ablaze, a dog that suffered attempted murder when somebody tried to decapitate him, a dog with a large machete wound.

Left: Arruguita, now, as a lifetime resident of the CARES sanctuary.

Right: Amazing survival after being
doused in kerosene and set on fire.

Left: A Machete Wound, 4 days after aggressive treatment to heal the wound.

Right: an unsuccessful attack to decapitate a dog

After reading the wonderful editorial piece written by Brandi Pool, I revisited the Brando incident in my mind. It is still a raw wound. I remember he was the only shelter dog that learned how to catch a Frisbee. Getting the Frisbee back was a different situation!

It turns out the medical school in Iquitos has also utilized live dogs for medical practice. The neighbors denounce the school often, for the school does not dispose of the carcasses properly, leaving them by the side of the road to decompose, or in some cases, not even completely dead.
I am proud that the Iquitos government, in a unique act that benefits animals, passed a law saying it was illegal for the medical school or students to continue this practice.

Is this common in other nations too? When will people, all people of this world, recognize our responsibility to care for animals that WE domesticated? Is this their final reward. Amazon Community Animal Rescue, Education and Safety continues to fight ignorance and cruelty. Working with children and teenagers seems to be very effective. Yet it also seems we have a long way to go.

In loving memory of Brando.


  1. What a lively dog Brando was. He loved to fetch and play. So horrible that someone could see a bright creature like that and buy him to kill in an experiment, probably one that entailed great suffering. (I'm sorry to rub salt in the wound, but this aspect of torture makes the requisitioning of animals by medical schools especially deplorable.)

    I applaud your group's efforts to save animals and to educate people in the selva about proper animal treatment. As a dog owner in Lima, I know how hard it can be to keep an animal safe in Peru (as you know, my own dog was poisoned in a Lima park in July). Despite rising numbers of devoted pet owners, there are many Peruvians who think that it's okay to kill other people's pets. It's not seen as an evil act, just as people in North America wouldn't think that killing a snake or a rat is bad. It's these cultural attitudes that need to be changed.

  2. how awful. what an unfair end for a lovely creature.


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