How You Can Help Stray Dogs (Satos) of Puerto Rico

Puerto Rico Dog Rescue

Puerto Rico. A beautiful place with lots of tourism. One thing I bet the tourists don’t see is the serious problem of abandoned dogs left at the beach…specifically Yabucoa Beach. Even as far back as 2010, there were articles being written about the serious problem of dog dumping in Puerto Rico.

The Huffington Post shared an article, Saving the Satos, which discussed the serious problem Puerto Rico had with stray dogs. It is estimated thousands of abandoned stray animals live and die on the streets and beaches all over this island with a population of almost four million people.

Strays are referred to as “satos” in Puerto Rico. The word, “Sato” is a derogatory term for “street dog” and usually refers to mutts. Purebred dogs are generally more highly valued on the island. Many locals treat the satos as they were pests. These strays many times are abused, poisoned, shot, beaten, cut by knives, burned by acid or hot oil or boiling water, deliberately hit by cars or simply neglected. In the end, they are left to fend for themselves. Once they are dumped they breed since most of time they have not been neutered or spayed. The problem of pet overpopulation continues to grow because of this. It’s a vicious circle. Juliana Hatfield states in her article, “Compounding the problem is the disinclination of many Puerto Rican pet owners to spay and neuter their dogs and cats.” Education is key. I think many times people do not understand the importance of spay/neuter programs.

Puerto Ricans who find themselves not being able to make money to keep their pets often choose to drop their dogs, sometimes even whole litters of puppies, at Yabucoa Beach to fend for themselves. There are no neighborhoods, stores, hotels, or around this beach. If the islanders don’t want to be discovered, they drop off their dogs late at night secretly. The Puerto Rican animal shelters have been known to put down hundreds of dogs each week and many islanders fear taking any pets or strays there. My guess is they think if they dump their dog, they will have a chance to live. In reality, their abandoned dog will most likely suffer greatly and either die of starvation or disease. This is what happens when people put their blinders on so to speak. What you don’t see isn’t happening (in their mind).

Strays in PR who were dumped struggling to survive

Strays in PR who were dumped struggling to survive

I spoke of Yabucoa Beach earlier. This beach is also known as “Dead Dog Beach” because it is known to be a dog dumping ground. Stray,abandoned and neglected dogs are common site on many Caribbean islands (and also throughout the Third World), Puerto Rico, however, is an interesting case because it is considered a U.S. territory and is subject to American animal cruelty laws. It’s disheartening, but the laws in Puerto Rico are rarely enforced.

One thing is for sure, this title of “Dead Dog Beach” that Puerto Rico has created is very bad for tourism, which is an important part of Puerto Rico’s economy. I can’t wrap my mind around any human being that is able to overlook a suffering animal in need. As Gandhi said, “The greatness of a nation and it’s moral character can be judged by the way it’s animals are treated.” Can you imagine being a tourist in Puerto Rico for the first time and coming across stray dogs all over the place? Most are sick, injured, starving, dying. This includes dead dogs and puppies. Many are begging for any type of food outside the hotels, usually sleeping in empty parking lots, or standing ,sitting or lying on the side of the road. This is not the image Puerto Rico would want tourists to remember. Luckily, there are a few organizations which I discuss below who are helping curb this serious problem. You can help, too!

A volunteer helping feed the abandoned strays. Look how happy these dogs are to finally get some help!

A volunteer helping feed the abandoned strays. Look how happy these dogs are to finally get some help!

4 Ways You Can Help Now!

  1. Join and help the Sato Project! The Sato Project is dedicated to rescuing abused and abandoned dogs from Puerto Rico. They primarily work in at Yabucoa Beach, known as “Dead Dog Beach,” on the southeastern coast of the island. As its name states, it is usually a last resting place for dogs, and it is not a happy one. No dog walks to Dead Dog Beach – it is at the end of a long road with no residences – they are dumped there. There is no food or fresh water on the beach. The volunteers of Sato Project are the dogs’ only source of food, fresh water, and most importantly, love, on a daily basis. They take their rescue mission very seriously. Rescuing dogs means more than just pulling them off a beach or the streets. In addition the Sato Project members are dedicated to each and every one of their dogs and want to give them the greatest chance in life. After what they have been through, what they have witnessed, no one ever wants them to suffer again.
  2. Join Rescue organizations like Northeast Animal Shelter that work in unison with the Save a Sato project! The Northeast Animal Shelter have even gotten involved helping the abandoned dogs in Puerto Rico. Buddy, a rescue dog now ready for adoption at the North East Animal Shelter was actually found by Save a Sato Foundation.
  3. Volunteer or Donate to Save a Sato project! Save A Sato is a non-profit, all volunteer organization dedicated to easing the suffering of Puerto Rico’s homeless and abused animals. “Sato” is slang for street dog. They rescue Satos from the streets and beaches, give them medical care, food and shelter, and plenty of love. When the dogs are healthy, they are sent to one of their shelter partners for adoption into loving homes.
  4. If you are considering adopting an abandoned stray from Puerto Rico, check out Outside Online! Outside Online explains how you can adopt a dog from Puerto Rico.

We can all make a difference and help those who are helpless.

“The future depends on what we do in the present.” ~Mahatma Gandhi

For these abandoned strays, these words echo a harsh reality.

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