The Land of Stray Dogs in Costa Rica

The Land of Stray Dogs in Costa Rica. How to visit, where is it? and what is it like to be surrounded by hundreads of friendly dogs! #CostRica #TravelCostaRica #dogs
The Land of Stray Dogs in Costa Rica

The Land of Stray Dogs, or Territorio de Zaguates in Spanish, is a sanctuary for stray dogs in Costa Rica. It recently got a bit of media attention and some videos of the shelter went viral. In fact, it was through one of these viral videos that I came to hear about this place. They currently have between 700-800 dogs!  Since I was going to be in Costa Rica anyway I decided to check it out. Here’s a compilation of video clips I took whilst there:


They currently do not have a website but you can find information on their Facebook page. This is how they describe themselves:

”Territorio de Zaguates is a “No-Kill Shelter”, a dog sanctuary where we do not believe in euthanasia as a solution to the problem of abandoned dogs in Costa Rica.
We have as mission to find a home for all the dogs that are in our care. We are a temporary home for hundreds of puppies looking for a second chance, and we are also the permanent home to many others who may never find their own family.

Territorio de Zaguates is a non-profit organisation founded by Lya Battle and Alvaro Saumet, who for 8 years have been dedicated to promote animal welfare and respect for animals.”

Some of the dogs
Josh with the dogs

A lot of the dogs at the shelter have been rescued from the street. Some of them actually had owners but were abandoned or left at the shelter because they were no longer wanted (which is heartbreaking). Over the years they have accumulated hundreds and hundreds of dogs! This obviously sounds incredible for dog lovers and it is amazing to see them all running around. But I think what some people forget is that they do not want to have that many dogs. Fewer dogs means more adoptions and less mistreatment.

In my personal opinion, I think there are some positives and negatives to The Land of Stray Dogs. The negatives are that there is not enough vet care to go around at the moment, so some dogs need extra care but are having to wait for it. The government does not help them in any way. Although there are huge areas of land for the dogs to roam around there is not a lot of covered shelter for the colder/wet nights. The positives are that if it wasn’t for this shelter- many of the dogs would be dead or suffering terribly on the streets. From what I saw there was enough food thanks to huge donations from dog food company so this is a big positive. I really hope that by spreading awareness of this shelter it encourages more people to donate and adopt and that in a few years time they have much fewer dogs.

Dinner Time!

How to visit The Land of Stray Dogs

It is important to note that the shelter is only open for pubic walks on certain days otherwise it is closed to the public. Do not try to just turn up. The public walks are free to join.

The walks are often weekends and a couple of times a month. To find out when there is a scheduled walk you can check their Facebook page or comment on their Instagram post (this is what I did. I got a contact number for a lady who volunteers there and she was able to help me). Do try and contact them beforehand to confirm you are coming.

Once you know the public walk date you turn up at 9am at the gates. The walk lasts about 3 hours. There is a little bit of uphill walking but it is not overly strenuous and you stop a lot to have a break and pet the dogs. I didn’t find that any of the dogs were aggressive toward humans but obviously take precaution when approaching them to pet them as some may have had traumatic experiences at the hands of humans in the past.

The Public Walk
The Public Walk
The Public Walk

Where is The Land of Stray Dogs

The shelter is about 35 min north of Heredia or about 1 hour away from San Jose (probably more with traffic). What I did was stay in nearby Heredia the night before and I then ordered an Uber that morning to take me to the dog shelter. The Uber was pretty cheap but I decided to take the public bus back into Heredia as this was only a dollar or two. I have read that there are now shuttle buses from San Jose that can take you to the shelter. This costs around $6 US dollars per person. You will need to check the Facebook page for information and to book. You can drive there but parking is limited. Please see the map below for its exact location or you can just type ‘Territorio de Zaguates’ into Google maps yourself and it’ll give you this location:


The shelter is at the end of a country road with some houses. You will feel like you’re in the middle of nowhere but keep going going and you will see the large red gate at the very end. You’ll probably see a lot of cars outside and people waiting to enter.

The gates to the shelter


Help the Dogs

I think it is important to remember that the aim of visiting the dog shelter is to help the dogs in some way. If you are unable to adopt then do donate as generously as you can. At the end of the walk they also sell drinks, T-shirts and other merchandise to help raise money.

The biggest way you can help is by adopting a dog. I wasn’t in a situation to adopt and it is also quite difficult to get a dog back to Europe however, it is surprisingly easy to get a dog back to the USA.

You can also make a donation even if you do not visit in person. Information and bank details are on their Facebook page if you wish to donate.

The dogs smothering one of the staff members

Other Tips

  • Wear comfy shoes you don’t mind getting dog poop on. It’s not so bad once you’re on the trails but it’s easy to step in it on the main concrete path.
  • Wear clothes you don’t mind getting dirty.
  • Take an allergy tablet beforehand if you are allergic (like me!)
  • Arrive on time. The walk will not wait for you.
  • Bring suncream, water and maybe some snacks.
  • Plan ahead. Do not just turn up.

More Pictures

As you arrive
The walk
One of the dogs
The walk
The walk
The walk
The walk
The walk
A dog with one eye
Petting the dogs
A dog getting protective over his food


Have you been to the Land of Stray Dogs? Are you thinking about visiting? If so, let me know in the comments!

Jess Harling

Creator of Jess Travels

26 thoughts on “The Land of Stray Dogs in Costa Rica”

  1. Thanks for sharing this! Loved and admire your initiative to write about a place which is not at all one of those conventional tourist destinations, truly amazing and indeed a great idea👍🏻

    1. It is not so well known yet because it is not in a touristy town! You need to go a little off the beaten path to get there 🙂 Glad you liked it, thanks!

  2. Wow These dogs are so cute. It would be great to meet them all and make new doggy friends. Should be better than meeting humans. Cool…

  3. The first thing I thought when I clicked on your link was “Whoa, that’s a lot of dogs!”. But, I think it’s an incredible thing that the shelter is providing and those who volunteer their time.

  4. OMG so many dogs everywhere! Its great the shelter is there to help them and definitely good tips on how to help even if you can’t adopt them!

  5. Awwww this is like cat island in Japan (only they’re abandoned and multiplied but the cats are well cared for). Faith in humanity restored! Love that they’re keeping it as a sanctuary, it is a worthy cause! Are the dogs spayed tho? I hope they do. The Facebook page is mostly in Spanish and my Spanish is terribleee ahahha

    1. I need to go to cat island! I am actually more of a cat person than a dog person. Have you been there? I hope you’re right and they are well cared for. Yes, they spay the dogs here but there’s no resident vet so sometimes they have to wait a week for the vet to come. Oh really? mine must automatically translate to english because I see most of the FB page in english.

  6. Dogs are the best, I am a dog momma so i know:-) I loved your post, seriously one of the best of blog post Saturday! Love what Costa Rica is doing and I would love to visit one day. Thanks for such a wonderful experience! As someone who fosters and works with rescues, this post really resonated with me. I loved that pink nosed pit bull!

    1. Aww thank you ! If you love wildlife and nature Costa Rica is the place for you. But sadly not everyone knows how to care properly for dogs which is why some of these dogs have been abandoned by their previous owners 🙁 .
      That’s amazing that you foster and work with rescues ! I’m glad you liked the blog! Thanks for reading

  7. How did I miss this the last two times I was in Costa Rica? It looks like an amazing place. I’m inspired by the work they are doing there for all those pups!

    1. It is easy to miss because it’s not in the guidebooks and they only have a Facebook page and not a website. It’s also a little out of the city. But maybe next time you go to Costa Rica!? I know! It’s a crazy amount of work!

  8. It’s great that they’ve opened this shelter – have been to Costa Rica and there are so many stray dogs. Hope they get more support so they can widen the facilities further.

    1. Yeah there are a lot of strays there sadly. But I did see more strays in other central american countries like Guatemala. I hope so too! Thanks for taking the time to check out my blog Julianna 🙂

  9. I have never seen so many dogs in one location all at once! From the looks of it, the loss of hair, it looks like some of the dogs have fleas. It is good that these people are helping the dogs, I hope they can find homes soon!

    1. Same and I dont think I will ever see this many dogs in one place again! haha! Yeah some dogs did have skin problems and no doubt fleas as well. The people running the shelter were working their hardest to help the dogs but it is too many to keep up with. Me too! Thanks for reading my post 🙂

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