Located in Costa Rica the Territorio de Zaguates or the Land of Strays as it would be translated to in English is currently the largest dog shelter in the world with over 1000 dogs at the shelter. Found up in the mountains of Heredia the shelter is run by a Costan Rican-American couple who made it their goal to run the largest no-kill dog shelter in the world – and they have done it! So far the program has taken thousands of dogs off the streets and helped them find homes. They also focus on educating Costa Rican citizens about the major importance of castration for keeping dog populations under control and also on treating them as pets.
The founding members of the shelter saw the horrors street dogs were facing and decided to act, they felt it was terrible they only had such limited choices: suffer on the streets or end up in a shelter where every day was being counted. Because most shelters do in the end euthanize the dogs if they can’t find them a new family.
At one time the shelter can be found holding anywhere between 700 to 1000 dogs. In fact, it has grown so big it is also seen as a tourist attraction for foreigners, with many tourists walking the mountains solely to be surrounded by hundreds of dogs. Though it is closed to the public much of the year so make sure you reach out if this sort of trip is your dream. The initiative operates solely off donations
Zaguate is the Spanish term for stray or mutt, unfortunately, Costa Rica has a major problem with abandoned dogs. Their streets are filled with dogs running around wild, the shelter only takes in dogs that were abandoned or born as street dogs.
Especially in rural areas where dogs are not seen as pets and simply looked down upon by the people. Territorio de Zaguates will nurse them back to health and attempt to find them a new forever home. In fact, in Costa Rica, it is estimated there are over 1 million stray dogs and it is not a fun time for street dogs as it is thought many suffer from animal abuse. And of course, you have the danger of being hit by cars or suffering from diseases, rain, cold and hunger. Luckily Territorio de Zaguates exists and if you love dogs, then you should definitely go check it out.