Street Dogs of Puerto Rico – What’s Changing?

Street dogs are a growing population worldwide. In Puerto Rico  there are an estimatedstreet dogs 200,000 strays in a country the size of Connecticut. Some people wonder why would anyone bring these street dogs here when we already kill millions of homeless dog every year. That might seem a reasonable question when you first hear about this work, but if that thought crossed your mind, I think that will change when you listen to this interview.

Debbie Jacobs, a well-reputed certified dog trainer, author, explorer and speaker, discusses her fifteen-years-and-counting experience working to rescue street dogs (“Satos”) in Puerto Rico on Vieques Island. You can imagine, given the numbers, what walking around San Juan must be like: Dogs milling around the street, seemingly helter-skelter at first, until you recognize a pattern of purposeful travel, down one street, up another, parking themselves on a corner of a cafe to watch as lunch is being served, jockeying to be noticed, aiming to please, without getting too close until offerings are made by tourists. Street dogs must be smart, quick and congenial to stay alive.

Street Dogs Are Community Dogs

Street dogs on the other island off Puerto Rico, Culebra, don’t seem to be a problem. During a visit there, Debbie asked why there were so many street dogs everywhere else, yet Culebra had so few.  She was told that the dogs are routinely fed poison hidden in hot dogs to control the population.

You might ask, what about Vets Without Borders – why is that not a better answer to reducing the population of street dogs? After all, VWB are now using an inexpensive non-surgical alternative to neutering, an excellent fit in this situation. Debbie reminded me it’s a funny thing about communities – they have their way of handling their lives and their troubles that are not fodder for outsiders to judge or make determinations about. Street dogs belong to the community. It is delicate diplomacy that must be practiced by non-governmental  groups. Acceptance by communities as respectful outsiders must be earned.

There are positive things happening in the culture and how they view dogs has changed over the years. Listen to the podcast for more!

Debbie Jacobs CPDT-KA, CAP2, is the author of “A Guide To Living With & Training A Fearful Dog“, which was a finalist in the 2008 Dog Writers Association of America’s annual writing competition. She is also the founder of Explorations in Travel which organizes outdoor and cultural adventures for women over 40 and educational travel programs for students. She is a regular visitor to Puerto Rico.

(Photo credit: Escort A Puerto Rican Sato[street dog])


  1. […] week at Animal Cafe, Debbie joins our animal welfare correspondent Mary Haight, to talk about her rescue work with these Puerto Rican satos, or street dogs. Please listen to the interview to learn more. The interview provides more information about these […]

  2. […] All in all, it’s a complex and fascinating topic. If you want to learn more, including how to help these sweet satos at home and abroad, check out the interview at Animal Cafe. […]

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