Stray Dogs in the Caribbean

Satos and Hotcake Dogs

Photographs by Natalie Siebers

Growing up, I used to visit my grandparents in Puerto Rice twice a year. One of the things that struck me, even as a small boy, was the sheer number of stray dogs on the island. They all had that distinctive look: skinny, long-legged, long tail, pointy ears. Whenever I saw dogs that looked like that back in the states, I would call them “Puerto Rico Dogs.” I later found out they were called “satos” or “hotcake dogs.”

Fast forward a few decades, and “Puerto Rico Dogs” are in the news.

Puerto Rico’s collapsing economy has lead to a deterioration of the Commonwealth’s street dog problem. Barks of Hope’s Leopodina Roubian tells CNN’s Money: “Many animal lovers have heard of Puerto Rico’s ‘dead dog beach,’ a stretch of sand and jungle on the island’s southeastern side where people dump their dogs. But the truth is Puerto Rico has become ‘dead dog island.'”

The problem is not restricted to Puerto Rico. Stray dogs are common in Haiti, the Dominican Republic, Cuba, Venezuela, and throughout the rest of the Caribbean Basin. Economic issues of the last decade have made the problem of stray dogs in the region worse. People living there simply do not have the money or resources to take care of the animals.

Dominican Republic (Photo: Natalie Siebers)
Dominican Republic (Photo: Natalie Siebers)

It’s an issue that affects the main source of income for so many in the Caribbean: tourism. Cathy Kangas of the Humane Society writes:

“Trip Advisor has many postings advising people to avoid taking a vacation in the Caribbean because of the stray dog problem. Individuals regularly post how heartbreaking it was to spend a lot of money on a vacation to a beautiful resort only to be confronted with the sight of stray dogs roaming and often suffering on nearby streets. It is impossible to measure the economic impact stray dogs have on the tourism industry, but I maintain that Caribbean islands have probably lost millions in first-time or even more important return visitors because of the prevalence of stray dogs.”

Urban Dog’s favorite photographer, Natalie Siebers, traveled to the Dominican Republic recently where she got a first hand look at the problem there. She was struck by how desolate the capital Santo Domingo was. She told me that the vast majority of the of tourists go to out island resorts, so the economy in the capital city suffers. In turn, the dogs suffer.

Dominican Republic (Photo: Natalie Siebers)
Dominican Republic (Photo: Natalie Siebers)

There are a number of organizations, like Animal Lighthouse Rescue and El Faro de Los Animales, you can contribute money to to help out.

You can also volunteer your time, both here and abroad. Bill Hudnut and Thom Graves, owners of frequent Urban Dog models Willow and Birch, traveled to Puerto Rico on an air lift operation with Animal Lighthouse Rescue.

Bill and Thom in Puerto Rico

To help animals in the Dominican Republic, donate to Dogs and Cats of the the Dominican Republic.

Below are more pics from Natalie’s recent trip.

Dominican Republic (Photo: Natalie Siebers)
Dominican Republic (Photo: Natalie Siebers)

 

Dominican Republic (Photo: Natalie Siebers)
Dominican Republic (Photo: Natalie Siebers)

 

Dominican Republic (Photo: Natalie Siebers)
Dominican Republic (Photo: Natalie Siebers)

 

Dominican Republic (Photo: Natalie Siebers)
Dominican Republic (Photo: Natalie Siebers)

 

Dominican Republic (Photo: Natalie Siebers)
Dominican Republic (Photo: Natalie Siebers)

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