Veronica Garcia Ortega hadn’t had breakfast yet, because the motto in her home is that “the dogs eat first,” she said in Spanish.  

The dog food clatters into the baby swimming pool, and Garcia Ortega tries to step back as dogs scramble over each other to wolf it down. She scoops up the dogs for their photo shoot, navigating muddy paws and eager face-licks. They are under consideration for adoption in the United States, to be taken in shelters as far away as Salt Lake City, Utah. 

Mary Tovey from Albuquerque and Alma Morfin from Juárez are partners in the nonprofit Planned Pethood de Juárez — an organization which is mainly focused on animal welfare education and spay/neuter efforts in the city and surrounding area. 

However, a very small part of their organization deals in direct rescue, a time-consuming and selective process that proves for tricky politics. Why bring dogs from around the world, when so many strays exist in the states? 

Tovey said the answers aren’t easy, but there are “more desirable breeds” such as poodles, labradors and others that could easily find homes, while other breeds go to shelters to stay — such as chihuahuas and pit-mixes.

Tovey said she wishes she could do more, but that’s why there is a focus on spaying, neutering and pet care — to change the system. She admires the work of the informal women’s networks that have expanded to provide care and try and find homes for stray dogs in Mexico. 

“This is their labor of love to Juarez,” Tovey told me about the independicias, “I don’t have as much skin in the game, but I support the decisions they make.” 

Many of las independencias live and work in La Chaveña (the keyhole) a neighborhood in Ciudad Juárez.They are looking to give perros callejeros more opportunities. The stray dog population just in Juárez exploded in recent years, estimated to go from 20,000 in 2010 to 200,000 in 2013, according to the latest data. 

Danielle Prokop is a senior reporter for the Daily Lobo. She can be reached at or on Twitter @ProkopDani.