Friday, January 29, 2010

Stray Dogs in Puerto Rico

Puerto Rico is a little smaller than the state of Connecticut. Like some of the southern states, rescues in Puerto Rico send some of its stray dogs (known as "satos" locally) to the Northeast for adoption. Since shelters in the Northeast are short on dogs and Puerto Rico has an estimated 150,000 stray dogs, it makes sense to network on rescue efforts:
After nearly 15 years of Sato importation, New England is surely home to the highest concentration of these former strays of anywhere off the island. And they have a devoted following. Satos tend to be on the small side (under 30 pounds) and they come in many unusual combinations, just like Valiente [a Chihuahua/Border Collie mix]. Chihuahua genes are pretty common, as are enormous ear spans, stubby legs, and a penchant for sun bathing. Their gratitude at being given a second chance is often palpable.
Approximately 2000 stray dogs are rehomed in this manner every year in Puerto Rico. Which leaves us 148,000 more in need of help. The state is roughly 3500 square miles in size. If the estimate on stray dog numbers is accurate, that works out to approximately 43 strays per square mile. Think of a square mile in your neighborhood. Now put 43 stray dogs in there. Repeat the exercise times 3500 square miles and you can imagine the challenges and difficulties facing rescuers in Puerto Rico. I wonder if there is any access to low cost neuter in the state or if they even have any actual shelters. I wonder what more they need by way of assistance. Anyone?


Pibble said...

That's a good question, and I'll try to find out. I know a few of our local vets go down there to do neuter/release, but I don't know how much that has helped the issue. Again, it's cultural, and if people let their unaltered pets wander... We know what happens.

Being in CT, we've taken in some SATOs in the past, and they are wonderful dogs. They get along with other animals, they're smaller, which people tend to want, and they're usually kid-friendly. We try not to take in too many because our ACs are overflowing with unwanted animals, and we feel that it's really not fair that adoptable pets in our own backyards are being destroyed because we're taking in pets from other areas, whether it's Puerto Rico or other places in the US.

The only problem we've seen with SATOs is that they've been bringing in serious health problems of their own, which is why we've excused ourselves from the program. The last batch of absolutely adorable puppies we took in had Parvo, which didn't rear its ugly head until two days after they arrived. Good for them because the litter would have been destroyed had they gotten sick in Puerto Rico. With extensive palliative care (since there's no cure for Parvo) we were able to save all but one of the pups. Bad for us because we had to undertake some serious vet bills which we weren't prepared for, and we had to quarantine all of our dogs. Parvo just shuts a shelter down and in many cases, ACs tend to kill all the dogs rather than treat. I understand that they don't have the budget to try to help these animals pull through, but let's face it, they don't even try. In many cases, they even kill the ones that have been vaccinated but exposed (think HSUS, yes it's true), which, in my opinion, is disgusting. HSUS killed animals that were vaccinated but exposed. WHY?! Different story for another day.

The other issue is that not all Northeast shelters are empty. When you go farther north - Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine, I believe - that's when you start to see empty cages, even empty shelters (again, unless it's an HSUS-run shelter around here; sorry, but it's the awful truth). In CT, as I said, we're packed to the gills with owner releases and ACs that are overflowing.

RInalia said...

Save a SATO Foundation is perhaps the most well-known of the groups working in Puerto Rico.

They have a list of other animal welfare groups:

They also have a list of low-cost spay/neuter options:

I donated to them after visiting San Juan on a cruise.

As an aside, I absolutely refuse to ever take a cruise to those impoverished island nations. It was heart-wrenching and offensive to see the disparity. Tourist clubs w/ mostly white people on the nice beaches kept nicely isolated from the poverty and suffering on the rest of the island. I got lost once on Aruba and ended up in a literal shanty-town. Oh how embarrassed and angry at myself I was for being a privileged white woman enjoying a tourist trip in a freaking dirt-poor, country mostly populated by people of color.

Anonymous said...

Since H$U$ raised all that money to rescue animals in Haiti and then discovered there weren't any that needed rescuing (???) maybe they can sent their team over to P.R. and actually do some good for a change.

(I know, silly me!)