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