‘Land of The Strays’

‘Land of The Strays’

Attention all dog lovers – you may need to add Costa Rica to your bucket list…

Imagine a place where the sunshine is constant, the average annual temperature is 73 degrees and almost 1000 dogs roam free across a stunning, luscious landscape…it’s effectively canine heaven but right here on earth!

Located in the mountains of Santa Barbara in Costa Rica’s Heredia province is Territorio de Zaguates, also known as ‘Land of the Strays’. The area encompasses a privately funded, volunteer organisation where every single dog in this ‘no-kill’ shelter is available for adoption.

Each dog is given a name as well as their own personally assigned ‘breed’, based somewhat on their unique characteristics. These include dogs called a ‘Chubby-Tailed German Dobernauzer’ and a ‘Fire-Tailed Border Cocker’ to name a few, shedding light on the dog’s one-of-a-kind traits, thus dispelling the myth surrounding the presumption that purebreds are somehow more valuable than crossbreeds. According to several experts, putting a positive spin on mongrels mixed genetic makeup, aids in finding these pooches new homes.

Having been in existence for eight years thanks to co-founders Lya Battle and Alvaro Saumet, they both continue to dedicate the land to the ‘well-being and respect of the animals’ which also includes cats!

The shelter became a bit of a viral hit after a television show featured several artistic impressions of the area’s new breeds. The response was huge, with the Alaskan Collie Fluffy terrier becoming an overnight social media sensation, and soon after billboards across the country were depicting dogs in urban areas alongside the message “When you adopt a mutt, you adopt a unique breed.” Soon after, interest in visiting and adopting the mongrels was higher than ever before.

One of the best elements to ‘Land of the Strays’ is its adoption policy. If you’re interested in taking on board a pup from Costa Rica, you are then cordially invited to travel to the Heredia province and meet the dogs themselves at this exotic shelter.

Volunteers exercise every single pup daily, taking them on scenic hikes, of which prospective parents are also invited. This allows people to interact with the dog in a stress-free environment and allows those adopting to really get to know their new pet.

Most of the dogs spend their time basking in the sun and enjoying the cool Costa Rican breeze, but they also have access to modern indoor facilities, such as the housing area which features cosy bedding for all the pups, plus feeding and bathing stations. In addition, troughs with fresh flowing water are located all over the property to keep all the dogs happy and hydrated.

There is no pressure to adopt these pups though, being a no kill shelter, the dogs are always well cared for and happy. In fact, Costa Rica was one of the first ‘No-Kill nations’ in the Americas – its government banning the use of euthanasia in 2003. As a result, there are now more than one million stray dogs in Costa Rica; although we can be thankful that places like Territorio de Zaguates exist to help them.

Images courtesy of Facebook (Territorio de Zaguates Oficial)

George Welsby

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