In Puerto Rico, dogs that live on the streets are called satos, and there are over 300,000 of these stray dogs on the island. There is even a beach on the southeast side of the island known as Dead Dog Beach because so many pups are abandoned there. After Hurricanes Irma and Maria, the problem increased as power outages made it impossible for veterinarians to offer care, and many people had to abandon their pets due to homelessness.
Needless to say, the sato issue is a big problem in Puerto Rico, but one that a few special local groups are trying to remedy. These rescue organizations are manned by volunteers that respond to calls from locals who spot a stray dog or abandoned litter of puppies. The satos are then taken in by the organizations and given medical treatment if needed before going to a foster home. Many of the dogs that are rescued are fostered locally before making the trek to the States to find their forever home.
Oftentimes, litters of rescued puppies will have had no human contact in their short lives, making them fearful when they’re first sent to a foster home. So some of the rescue groups look for volunteers to come play with the puppies in order to get them used to humans. Kids can be especially good at this because of their natural energy, and interacting with smaller humans gives the sato puppies that much-needed “good with kids” characteristic so many homes look for when adopting.
Siblings Violet, age 11, and Beckett, age 9, have spent many hours playing with rescued puppies to get them ready for a new life with a forever family.
“They’re just so much fun to play with,” Violet said, “I mean, they’re puppies. They don’t deserve to be on the streets. They deserve to be in a good home.”
“I like playing with them because they’re really cute and stuff,” added Beckett, “Helping them makes me happy.”
The siblings volunteer with Love4Satos, a rescue organization headquartered in Guaynabo. More information about them and other local sato rescue groups can be found on Facebook.