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Hope for Puerto Rico’s Strays


Puppies with a view, at Pets Alive Puerto Rico
Puppies with a view

Not only have they rescued and rehabbed more than 350 dogs in just over a year, they have also managed to do an impressive amount of community outreach in the region around Utuado. By knocking on doors, promoting their work on social media and hosting educational seminars at area schools, they are establishing PAPR as a trusted resource for locals concerned about the satos’ welfare. (Area residents often tip off the couple about dogs in need.) They have also launched a pilot spay/neuter-release program, which, once it’s funded, will help ensure that even unadoptable strays won’t continue to reproduce.

The efforts the Carsons are most proud of, however, have been the partnerships PAPR has formed with local veterinarians to offer the community low-cost spay/neuter programs. After months of engaging with locals, they realized that—contrary to popular belief—many Puerto Ricans were perfectly willing to sterilize their dogs (and even neighborhood street dogs) as long as they could do so affordably. With the help of charitable foundations (including Cold Noses and the Humane Society International), they arranged for a veterinary clinic in the nearby coastal town of Arecibo to offer spay/neuter procedures at a greatly reduced cost ($50 rather than the usual $150 to $250).

These efforts culminated with PAPR’s participation last February in World Spay Day, during which volunteer vets working with the organization spayed and neutered more than 150 dogs in a single week. Since then, Joy says, they have continued to arrange sterilization for between five and 10 local dog owners each week.

While the amount of day-in, day-out work to be done at PAPR is daunting, the Carsons have been able to entice a steady stream of volunteers to help out, largely through what may be their most unusual program of all: offering the extra bedrooms in the sanctuary’s cheerful main building—which also happens to be their house—to paying guests who want to take a do-gooding Puerto Rican B&B holiday. Joy says that since last April, about 35 volunteers have done brief stints (usually about a week) at the property, during which they share not just chores, but meals and nightly happy hour with their everwelcoming hosts (Ken makes a mean rum-and-guava cocktail).

The work is undeniably arduous; there is always poop to be scooped, vet trips to be made, and Sisyphean heaps of dirty towels and blankets to launder. Still, several guests have already made repeat visits.

“It’s the puppy breath!” says Ken, using his favorite all-purpose description of the rewards that come from sanctuary work. Relentless though it may be, the work definitely allows plenty of time for petting, snuggling and playing with swarms of wriggling, grateful dogs. (Volunteers who’ve never before bottle-fed a litter find out pretty quickly just how magical puppy breath really is.)

“It may not be the most relaxing holiday you’ll ever take,” Ken quips. For dog lovers, though, it might easily be one of the most gratifying.



This article first appeared in The Bark,
Issue 75: Fall 2013

Photographs © Sarah Gold

CommentsPost a Comment
Please note comments are moderated. After being approved your comment will appear below.
Submitted by Deborah Davis | September 7 2013 |

hats off to these wonderful people.

Submitted by Debbie Jacobs | September 27 2013 |

Here's an opportunity to help the satos of Puerto Rico and learn more about modern dog training!


Submitted by virginia corchado | September 18 2014 |

my mom has two dog that she rescue.and now she is leaving Puerto rico and moving to the state,we call to place in Puerto so they could take the dogs and they told my mom that they pickup the and as soon as dogs arrive they put them to sleep. my mom rescue this dogs she does not want to put them to sleep she was suppose to on 9/13 to the us but she changed her ticket and stared to put advertising of both dogs to see if some one would adopt this dogs she is leaving 10/10/2014 my mom crys every night because she finds no one to take the dogs she is 80 years old and I am worried please help if any one is looking for a dog please please call 1787 609-6173 ask for ana or jesus also 917 963-4245 at this number you may ask virginia I will send you a picture of the dogs my email corchado8@msn.com or vee1934@outlook.com the dogs are in isabela pr

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