Dog territory

Alvaro Saumet and Lya Battle are a married couple who operate a large no-kill shelter for hundreds of stray dogs in Costa Rica. It’s called Territorio de Zaguates (roughly “Land of Mongrels”) where the dogs are spayed or neutered, given names, food, and shelter, and in most cases allowed to run around outside across a large area. It’s funded by donations and run by volunteers.

My favorite thing about the place is that every dog there belongs to a named breed, even if it’s the only known member of that breed. The idea is that some people have the mistaken notion that “pure bred” dogs are somehow superior to dogs of mixed breed. In fact, the the opposite is more likely to be true.

That’s especially the case with dogs bred to an arbitrary “breed standard” or in order to achieve a particular trait. For example, dogs bred to have very short snouts, such as bulldogs, pugs, Pekingese, and Boston terriers, often have serious respiratory problems. Racing greyhounds, routinely inbred for speed, frequently suffer from osteosarcoma in middle age. (I’ve known several adopted greyhounds who died from it.) This isn’t to say name-brand dogs are all sickly, only that there’s no reason to think they’re necessarily “better.”

Territorio de Zaguates has identified such rare breeds as Alaskan Collie Fluffyterrier or Fire-tailed Border Cocker. After they adopted the policy in 2013 with attendant publicity, the number of adoptions shot up 1400 percent.

Speaking of adoptions, they prefer to allow prospective adopting humans to come to the place and hike around the property to see what dogs seem to like them. That is, the dogs pick the humans rather than the other way around. Or, I suppose, it’s mutual, as with finding potential mates by attending balls in a Jane Austen novel.

Caso: Territorio de Zaguates from GARNIER BBDO on Vimeo.

You can donate to Territorio de Zaguates via this Treeseed page. For more information, see these links:

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