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Health

This stray dog paradise in Costa Rica is the ultimate zoo

Territorio de Zaguates

Costa Rica has more than 1 million stray dogs roaming the streets. A lucky 900 of them have been sent to a dog sanctuary to live a life of continuous happiness.

TDZ dog sanctuary4.jpgImage: Territorio de Zaguates

The sanctuary, called Territorio de Zaguates, is a vast park where dogs hang out with all of their friends.

TDZ dog sanctuary2.jpgImage: Territorio de Zaguates

Anyone can visit the park and play with the dogs, giving Costa Rica one more claim to the title of “Best Place to Vacation on Earth.” Visitors or fans can donate directly to the park so that it can foster more dogs and also arrange an adoption of one of the many lovable pups (adoption has become a very popular option).  

TDZ dog sanctuary3.jpgImage: Territorio de Zaguates

The main purpose of the park is to bring attention to Costa Rica’s stray dog problem.

Stray dogs are a major problem around the world. The global number of stray dogs has been estimated at 200 million in the past and most of these dogs are concentrated in developing communities.

They’re different from dogs that are pets (although they can still be domesticated if rescued). Strays roam in packs throughout the streets of a town or city searching for garbage or other food to eat. They defecate everywhere and are usually hostile to humans.

They don’t live good lives. Strays are marginalized, often hungry and disease-riddled and live in grimy conditions. They proliferate quickly so if the problem is not stemmed, cities can become overrun by dangerous dogs.

An estimated 55,000 people die from rabies each year and another 15 million are treated for the fatal disease. The vast majority of rabies cases come from a bite from a stray dog.

Many countries attempt to deal with the problem by “culling” dogs, which means killing dogs.

The problem is also combatted through sterilization efforts to ensure populations do not increase.

They can’t be considered wild animals because they still live embedded in human communities, which are vastly different from the natural environments that wolves, the ancestors of dogs, live in.

Strays are ultimately the result of negligent population control by humans, so reversing the problem is the responsibility of humans. Dogs should not have to live miserably as strays. This alone should spur governments to action, but it’s also an urgent human health problem. People, particularly children, should not be put at risk of being attacked by wild dogs or have their health compromised by their poop.

Costa Rica is setting a great example with its dog sanctuary. Dogs that had once lived uncertain, scrappy lives are now experiencing joy like every dog should. And the people visiting the park seem pretty happy - and healthy - as well.