Saturday, August 20, 2011

Sato 101

Bella is a Sato. Rescued Satos

Sato is Spanish slang, a slur really, for "street dog". They are dogs left to fend for themselves in the cities and on the beaches of several Caribbean islands, most notably Puerto Rico. Often found starving and infested with parasites, they are dogs who have been abandoned by their owners, neglected by the community and abused by people who consider them pests.

While Sato doesn't mean mixed breed and there are plenty of pure bred dogs among the thousands of Satos on the island, pure bred dogs are considered a status symbol and are not quite as routinely "thrown away" as the mixed breed dogs. Since sterilization hasn't been a priority on the island, intact Satos are abundant and a major contributor to the over-population problem.

As a result, mixed breed Satos have a tendency towards similar features after years of breeding without human intervention: they are generally small to medium sized dogs (usually 35 lbs or less) with big ears and long and slender snouts. They are also very smart, charming dogs who have learned how to survive, many learning how to "work a room" coaxing tourists and islanders into offering scraps of food that help them stay alive.

My earliest experience with Satos dates back to 2001 when I was volunteering at Buddy Dog Humane Society in Sudbury, MA, a partner shelter of Puerto Rican rescue group, Save a Sato. Founded in 1996, Save a Sato rescues dogs off the streets and beaches, nurses them back to health and sends them to partner shelters in the states. New England has a very low rate of stray dogs due to extensive spay/neuter efforts over the years. Our shelters had space, our families had desire and the dogs of Puerto Rico had need: a long and enduring partnership ensued.

Save a Sato is not the only rescue group in Puerto Rico, in fact, a handful of organizations on the island are working hard to save the dogs but their task is daunting. It is estimated that there are over 100,000 stray dogs on the island and cultural attitudes and lack of governmental support have been hindrances in efforts to promote low-cost spay and neuter programs for the island dogs. Campaigns to raise public awareness and change the laws are ongoing. Progress is being made but much work still needs to be done.

Please see the links below for more detailed information about the hardships these dogs endure and ways you can help.

Rescues in Puerto Rico:
  • Save a Sato - The first group I knew of helping dogs on the island. They have been rescuing Satos for over 15 years. A very nice profile of the group with links to news articles and an interview with then outreach coordinator Twig Mowatt can be found at this link: "Shelter Spotlight: Save-a-Sato in Puerto Rico"
  • Amigos de los Animales - Not a physical shelter, ADLA still rescues and rehabs both companion and farm animals in need. With a focus on working to change laws and minds, their commitment is to creating a more humane Puerto Rico. They are featured in this article "Dead Dog Beach" from 2009.
  • Island Dog, Inc. - Offering low-cost spay/neuter and vaccination clinics as well as humane education programs, Island Dog is working to promote responsible pet ownership on Puerto Rico as well as St. John, Vieques and Culebra.
  • PetsAlivePR - A relatively new group affiliated with PetsAlive, a no-kill sanctuary in New York, and armed with financial support from Sidewalk Angels Foundation, PetsAlivePR is building a sanctuary "Bed and Breakfast" on the island where volunteers can stay and help care for the dogs. They also send dogs to the states for adoption.
For more information:
See also:
  • 100,000 - the movie. We are still hopeful that "100,000" the movie will be released in the states soon. (Google can translate the page for you if your Spanish is not what it was in high school. :)

1 comment:

  1. I hope the movie makes it here! Should help raise awareness about what is going on.