In April 2017, I got to check something off my bucket list I’ve been wanting to do for awhile. Being a huge dog lover, I planned a trip for us to go to San Jose to attend one of the public walks at Territorio de Zaguates in Costa Rica, the largest no kill shelter in the world.
The Land of Strays shelter sits outside of Heredia, in the mountains and the couple that owns it, takes care of anywhere between 700-1000 dogs at a time. Since they have such a large property, these dogs get to run free in the forest and hills while waiting for their forever home.
Many of these dogs were either abandoned or were born street dogs and are at the shelter to be nursed back to health and put up for adoption. In Spanish, zaguate means street dog or stray dog which sadly, Costa Rica has a big problem with. You will see stray dogs everywhere, especially in rural areas. Many locals still see dogs as just guard animals or they don’t believe in castration which leads to a huge overpopulation of stray dogs. Additionally, many locals think purebred dogs are better than mutts so unfortunately, many street dogs are looked down upon as pets.
The shelter takes in as many dogs as they can and works incredibly hard to not only find them forever homes, but to educate the Costa Rican people about the importance of spaying and neutering, how to properly take care of dogs and to see them as pets, not just guard animals.
Territorio de Zaguates in Costa Rica
The Territorio de Zaguates visit is something any dog lover has to do in Costa Rica. The shelter only has open walks a couple times a month however so you will need to plan your visit accordingly as it’s not open to the public. So far, they do them on the weekends, usually the first and last of every month. To find out when they have their public walks, check the Territorio de Zaguates Facebook page as they announce everything on there.
I hope to one day have a dog center of my own (though not nearly as large!), seeing all the hundreds of happy goofy faces inspired me to work harder so I too can help the street dogs of Costa Rica find their perfect human.
For more information on the dog shelter, check this post to read a guide to visiting Territorio de Zaguates.
Territorio de Zaguates Photos
Here are my favorite photos I took during our Territorio de Zaguates walk. Look at all those silly faces!
And here is a couple short videos so you can see what it’s like to run with hundreds of dogs!
As you can see, it’s an incredible experience to be around so many happy dogs. Any dog lover has to put this on their bucket list!
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