The Territorio de Zaguates (Land of Strays) in picturesque Costa Rica is a free-range, no-kill animal shelter where strays and mutts can live out their lives in doggy paradise.
Territorio de Zaguates – Land of the Strays
Territorio de Zaguates is a unique dog shelter located in the mountains in Costa Rica. It achieved fame when a viral video showed one of their weekend “dog hikes” where hundreds of abandoned strays and mutts rescued from the city streets roam the idyllic mountain trails alongside their human visitors.
Strays finally get to live a dog’s life at Territorio de Zaguates
Located less than an hour outside the bustling capital city of Costa Rica, San José, this dog safe haven is home to more than 1,000 abandoned canines that have been given a second chance at life.
However, this is not your “regular” animal sanctuary. For a start, when you live somewhere as beautiful as Costa Rica, you may as well take advantage of what the landscape provides. That’s why volunteers regularly lead the giant pack of rescued hounds on scenic hikes through the picturesque mountains. It’s a sight to behold.
Aside from the free-range mountain hikes with breathtaking scenery, Territorio de Zaguates functions just like any other animal rescue or sanctuary.
"First thing we do when a new dog gets here is spay/neuter, vaccinate and get rid of parasites," the organisation explains on its Facebook page. "Then we assess if the dog requires any other type of special treatment [and] put them in quarantine if necessary."
After this initial processing is complete, the new dog is released into the general population, where it can either be adopted by a human or spend the rest of its days doing dog stuff in what is essentially a doggy paradise.
“When you adopt a mutt, you adopt a unique breed.”
Another thing that sets this sanctuary apart from regular sanctuaries is their lateral thinking when it comes to rehoming their residents. How? Territorio de Zaguates celebrates the unique mix of each dog it takes in.
Veterinarians at the free-range shelter do their best to analyse each mongrel’s physical characteristics to take a guess at the breeds they might contain. They then gave each dog their own unique pedigree, with names like the “Furry Pinscher Spaniel” and the “Freckled Terrierhuahua.” This inspired an artist who painted beautiful portraits of the newly-pedigreed mutts.
When Territorio de Zaguates’ head vet appeared on Costa Rican television to talk about the canine and the special breed titles bestowed upon them, he emphasised their uniqueness.
“These dogs exist only in our country,” he enthused. Dog lovers who saw the program went wild. They contacted the show to say they wanted to reserve the “Bunny-Tailed Scottish Shepterrier” or the “Long Legged Irish Schnaufox” for themselves.
This prompted an ad campaign featuring the delicate watercolors of the breeds on bus stations and billboards, advertising that “When you adopt a mutt, you adopt a unique breed.” This in turn led to more adoptions.
The made-up breeds accomplished two things. Firstly, it drew attention to the arbitrary nature of pedigrees, which are themselves a human invention. Secondly, it made each dog appear special and unique. The shelter has grown in popularity, and sponsors hiking events* where visitors can frolic in the mountains with hundreds of pups.
*(the daily public walks have been temporarily suspended while the sanctuary strives to meet new criteria set by the government regarding safety. One night some callous person/persons poisoned the water supply and a dozen animals died. The government drew up new guidelines for the safety of public and dogs alike, and the sanctuary is now waiting for permission for the daily public walks to resume. Weekend walks are unaffected.)
Paws for thought
Territorio de Zaguates is non profit organisation, founded by Lya Battle and Alvaro Saumet. During the last eight years they have been promoting well-being and respect for animals.
Veterinarian: They take care of their charges with deworming, sterilisation and any other care they need. The cost of maintaining a dog’s health is $5 per month.
Shelter: Territorio is home to literally hundreds of doggies. They give them a safe place to live, free from maltreatment, and full of love. The cost of providing a home is $11 per month for each of their unique specimens.
Food: Each month they get through thousands of kilos of dog food, to keep the pack healthy. Giving a full small plate to each dog costs $20 per month.
Maintaining the Territorio is not easy. Each little animal they have costs roughly $36 monthly, and they need help in order to keep their doors open. At Territorio they say they imagine a world where all the dogs have a home and love.
If you would like to find out more, visit, volunteer, or donate, check out their website.
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