"It sounded like gun shots," said Angelique Schornstein. She had no idea what was going on until the next day, when she walked the streets of her new neighborhood in Todos Santos, Baja, Mexico, only to find dead dog after dead dog on the side of the road.
When Schornstein moved from the U.S. to a town that had little regard for strays in 1990, she quickly learned that shooting dogs dead was the method of animal control. This was her new home, and she knew she had to do something.
"I was horrified," she told The Dodo.
Dogs roamed the streets in packs. They were mangy and underfed. The military would go around twice a year to kill them as a means of population control. According to Schornstein, "because of poverty, lack of knowledge and just not caring," that is what was done. "I never saw any dog leashed unless it was a little foo-foo dog."
The mass killings prompted her to start her first spay/neuter clinic in 1994. Schornstein, now president of the rescue group The Amigos de los Animales de Todos Santos (AATS), personally went out and rounded up 16 cats to start. A veterinarian friend from the U.S. spayed and neutered the animals in Schornstein's boyfriend's home on the kitchen countertop.
"I asked him if he had like-minded vets from the States, and he said, 'Yes.'" That started the free clinic, from then on and every year afterward. AATS works to improve the lives of the dogs and cats in the Todos Santos area - and has brought the end to the shooting of dogs for population control.
Angelique Schornstein, right, checks in a local woman's cat who will be sterilized at the clinic.MIKE BROZNA