To The Rescue of Man’s Best Friend
February 27, 2017
“The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.”
My dog’s name is Enzo Ricardo Gonzales, or just Enzo if you’re not feeling the full name. He’s a small, black dog with floppy little ears and a white chest. He loves to run, play in the snow and take naps by the fire whenever he isn’t hanging out with his best friend Arno. We adopted him about a month ago from the New Hampshire Humane Society (NHHS), and when we got him, they could only tell us two things: The email address of the organization that rescued him, and that he was pulled from the streets of Puerto Rico about a year before he came to New Hampshire.
We were curious about where he came from, and in an attempt to understand more about our little guy, we reached out to the Santuario de Animales San Francisco de Asis, the organization that sent him to New Hampshire. They told us that he had been dumped over the fence of their shelter scared, skinny, covered in fleas and riddled with skin problems. He spent a few weeks in a vet clinic while he healed, and then went to live with a student who wanted to adopt him. Unfortunately, that adoption fell through and Enzo, then Han Solo, made his way up to the NHHS where we found him and brought him home.
The organization that rescued Enzo was one of very few in Puerto Rico that deals specifically with the problem of stray dogs. The biggest one is the Sato Project, an organization that works “to bring systemic change to Puerto Rico through education and partnerships on the Island.” “Sato” is the Puerto Rican word for street dogs. Since they were founded 8 years ago, they’ve pulled well over a thousand dogs off of Dead Dog Beach, a major dumping ground for stray dogs on the southeast end of the island. The Sato Project rescues as many dogs as they can, but they are limited in the number of dogs that they can take in due to their limited funds and limited space in their facilities.
Besides the lack of funding and space, the Sato Project notes that one of their biggest struggles is that “Sometimes it takes us days, weeks, months even years to gain a dog’s trust. Many of our rescues have been horrifically abused and do not want to be anywhere near a human being. It then becomes a painstakingly slow process to change their mind and show them that not all men are cruel or want to hurt them. We never, ever give up. Proof of that is when dogs like Danya and Dana who had ‘lived’ on Dead Dog Beach for 11 and 9 years respectively were finally rescued by the Sato Project in 2014.”
Puerto Rico actually has very strict laws when it comes to animals and animal cruelty, but with most of the island being overrun by crime and violence, the dogs just aren’t a priority. 97% of the dogs that are dropped off at shelters are taken straight to the back to be euthanized, and most dogs aren’t spayed, neutered, or microchipped. This leads to massive amounts of overpopulation because the infrastructure just doesn’t exist to care for them.
Enzo got lucky. Really lucky. He was one of the very few of the 500,000 or so stray dogs in Puerto Rico that will live a safe and happy life, away from the violence and brutality he experienced growing up. This problem of animal abuse and neglect isn’t just a problem in Puerto Rico– it’s a problem here in the United States too.
More than 8 million animals enter shelters every year. According to the ASPCA, of all the dogs that enter the shelters, 35% are adopted, 31% are euthanized, and the other 26% are eventually returned to their owners. What is most striking, however, is the geographical divide between the locations that have strays and the locations that do not. States from Kentucky and Tennessee south have much, much higher populations of stray dogs than northern states. Upon further inspection, this seems obvious. The warmer climates allow the dogs to survive outside year-round, but the spay and neuter laws are also much more relaxed in the south than in the north. New Hampshire has one of the best spay/neuter programs in the country. They offer free or reduced rates to spay and neuter the pets of people who wouldn’t normally be able to pay the standard vet bills. Different towns have different laws regarding the pets of families who live there, but some force owners to pay extra to register their pet if their pet isn’t neutered/spayed and isn’t intended for breeding purposes. This results in much lower populations of stray dogs across the state and across New England, to the point where some shelters are sitting empty and people who want dogs are unable to get them.
The high price of purebred dogs, along with the health issues that come with owning a purebred drives many people to adopt from shelters, but if the shelters are empty… then what? Most of the northern shelters have come up with a solution: bring up dogs from the south and in from other countries.
Before Enzo, we had a dog named Porter who was a rescue from North Carolina. My cousins have a dog named Fergus who is from Mississippi. Ms. Disney’s dog Tyrol is from Texas, Ms. Wolf’s dog Arno is a rescue, and so are Miles and Avi. Dogs are pulled off the streets and brought to northern shelters in groups of three or four where they are then adopted. Many of the dogs pulled from the south, however, are pit bull mixes, which can turn some people against adopting them because of the pit bull’s bad reputation. This is where the Sato dogs come in. The Sato dogs are as mutt as you can get. The dogs are mutts, their parents were mutts, their grandparents were mutts, there’s hardly any purebred in their lineage. This makes these dogs much healthier and less prone to diseases and joint problems than purebreds, and they’re often smaller, stronger and smarter.
However, Puerto Rico is just one example of international dog rescue. Adopt a Golden Atlanta works with a rescue organization in Istanbul to bring abandoned golden retrievers to the United States to find homes. In Istanbul, people buy goldens when they are puppies, and when they grow up and are no longer cute and cuddly, they are thrown on the streets and abandoned. The dogs are too used to being with their families and being in homes, so they don’t do well on the streets. This is where Yasemin Baban comes in. She rescues dogs across the cities and sends them across the world to find homes in the United States where they are fondly known as “turkey dogs.” Many of the dogs now have special needs because of the abuse they endured on the streets, but each dog’s
Free Korean Dogs works against the meat farms in Korea, where more than two million dogs are slaughtered each year, but the view of dogs is changing in Korea. It used to be that dogs were dirty and only necessary for food, but now the younger generations are taking a more western approach and welcoming dogs into their homes. However, they prefer smaller dogs, and the bigger more exuberant breeds are still sent to the slaughterhouses. Free Korean Dogs aims to change that. They work with a rescue organization in Canada to educate the businesses in charge of the slaughterhouses and find other alternatives to dog meat and then to bring the dogs to Canada and the United States to find homes.
International Animal Rescue works in Goa, India “to reduce the suffering of the stray dog population” By vaccinating and sterilizing dogs in Goa, they have drastically reduced the amount of overbreeding and infighting among the dogs as well as eliminated rabies in humans. “Rehoming is an important part of the project:” the International Animal Rescue says on their website, “the more dogs we can rehome, the fewer strays there will be on the streets. The dogs themselves are the project’s best ambassadors. They reward their new owners with loyalty and affection, bringing comfort and joy into their lives.”
Dogs are expensive, though. Dogs are hard. Not everyone has the money or the time to take care of them, and rescuing them off the streets is often seen as a waste of time when the government could be reinforcing infrastructure, creating jobs, or using the money to help the poor and hungry. Dogs are seen by many as an unnecessary luxury, so most rescue organizations rely largely on public support to keep working. These shelters do work that is crucial both for the dogs and for the families that adopt them. Animal rescue is also crucial to public health, and that’s without even mentioning that dogs are pretty darn awesome.