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HomeCosta RicaTaking on a Dog in Costa Rica: A Long-term Commitment

Taking on a Dog in Costa Rica: A Long-term Commitment

Dogs can be the best of friends. They are there for you unconditionally through the good times and bad. Even after you get frustrated with them, they come running back for your love and affection, forgiven and all forgotten. They just make everything feel better in life when they are there by our side.

Costa Rica is saturated with dogs looking for homes and it is only natural to want to have one keep you company when staying in the country. They are wonderful companions and help offset the loneliness when traveling to a new destination. However, taking on a pet during your stay in Costa Rica should not just be a temporary addition to your life.

Many tend to forget that dogs are a commitment. They fall in love with the little puppy dog’s eyes and think how fun it will be to have a companion. However, some forget to think long term and how it will come to depend on you. Dogs are reliant on you for their shelter and a safe place to sleep, food and water, exercise, care, and attention.

The Nicoya Peninsula is a hot spot for foreigners as they escape to the beaches and its laid-back lifestyle. During their temporary time here, they take on the companionship of a furry friend. However, they aren’t temporary play toys and friends to keep you company until you return home or grow tired of them.

Dog Rescue in Costa Rica

Greg Murray and Laura Duran are cofounders of Pet Rescue Santa Teresa CR. They receive anywhere from 2 to 15 messages a day from people all over the zone about emergencies, abandonment, or needing guidance. Unfortunately, they do not have a facility and work strictly with foster homes which presents them with many challenges.

When speaking with Greg Murray of Pet Rescue Santa Teresa CR he noted that abandonment is an issue with the foreigners coming for a short term and adopting. One way they are tackling this ongoing issue is by having adoptees sign a contract stating they will vaccinate, fix, never abandon or mistreat the animal.

One needs to consider their future plans of whether or not they are in a position to take on a pet and the years and expenses that go into the relationship. Social media groups are laden with posts of those leaving the country that can no longer care for their pets. When choosing a dog, consider the size of the animal if you don’t plan on staying in Costa Rica. If you aren’t in a position to transport a larger dog after your stay maybe it is not the right fit for you.

Perhaps a smaller dog that can travel with you is a better choice which can align with the regulations of many aircraft. The dog is required to fall under a specific weight restriction and be able to turn around comfortably in their carrier fitting under the seat. You will often hear that people choose soft-sided carriers to meet these conditions.

As well, the dog carrier counts towards your carry-on. The process is not as daunting as many believe for dogs under 20 lbs and can be quite straightforward with a little guidance.

The local vet can also help you with the process of the required papers that are sent to San Jose and returned within an allotted number of days before your flight.

Many vets will vary in price but when you reach out and ask you may be quite surprised at how reasonable the cost is. It is important to confer with various airline websites to confirm weight restrictions and the specifications for animals. However, it is something to consider and inquire about before you completely decide to abandon your pet when leaving the country.

Flight Angels

Greg Murray of Pet Rescue Santa Teresa CR also mentioned another option that has been used in the past to help with dogs especially larger ones. One can broadcast across as many social media groups as possible in search of flight parents also known as flight angels. Many of the pet rescues throughout Costa Rica try to work together to help one another when searching for ways to bring back animals to one’s home country.

He also noted that if someone you know back in Canada or the United States is looking for a pet, you can bring one back home to them. If the dog is a healthy dog over two months, and has the proper paperwork and vaccinations, it is only a matter of paying for the paperwork which is approximately $100. One would then need to look into the price of the flight to fly back home with you or under the seat depending on the airline.

Abandoned Dogs in Costa Rica

Unfortunately, many dogs are abandoned day after day, and many at no fault of their own. I have come across some of the sweetest and most gentle strays that make you wonder how they have no one to love them.  Costa Rica is a country overrun with street dogs fending for themselves. Endlessly being dropped off at gas stations, beaches, or at the side of the road.  

During my time as a volunteer coordinator at an animal rescue in Costa Rica, we experienced boxes of puppies being left at the front gates. Some even threw puppies over the walls at us. It was of no concern that the big sign outside clearly indicated it was a rescue of sloths and wildlife as well as a sign stating the rescue did not accept dogs and cats.

The stories are endless and heartbreaking, puppies thrown in the ocean in a bag, drowned in rivers or burned because they can’t take on any more dogs. We see them limping from being hit while others look like they have had continuous litters of puppies.  I’ve seen the horror of one run over by a moto, as I screamed out for him to help, he turned and laughed at me with utter disrespect for the street dog.

But for all those horror stories we hear, there are always ones that restore our faith in humanity. Greg Murray shared one that he recalled of a local taxi driver named Luis. Luis had heard of a dog being hit by a car that was left for dead. Luis went out looking and found the skinny dog who was unable to walk with broken hips. Thankfully, he was taken to the vet and was able to get the care he needed. As a result, the dog was given another chance at life and has since been adopted, healed, and running around now enjoying a great life.

Population Control

A simple solution to help control the growing number of strays in Costa Rica and the pet population is castration. Thus, aiding in reducing the endless supply of helpless animals in search of a home and an important part of being a responsible pet owner.

Castration programs are regularly run throughout the year in communities across the country. It is not a program based on income eligibility, it exists to help everyone and the future animals that are at risk of being homeless or neglected. It is not just for residents, if you are here on your 90-day tourist visa you can participate with your pet. Or even help an animal in the community making a small difference in the country or town you are staying in.

The price is based on several weight categories averaging 13,000 to 25,000 colones depending on various locations and includes the medicine needed. For those that do struggle to come up with these funds, local animal rescue groups may be able to assist in finding donors in the community to help offset the cost at times.

The campaigns generally allow for both cats and dogs. One typically needs to contact them prior, to reserve a time for the animal and all is completed within that day. Once the animal is clear to go they can be brought home the same day with instructions and any medicine for their aftercare.

Final Thoughts

If you are an animal lover visiting or living in the country and you aren’t quite settled enough to care for a pet, perhaps fostering is something that could be considered. Or better yet, save up those bags of heavy Costa Rican coins and find your local pet rescue and pass it on to them. We all have a baggie somewhere in our homes where we have accumulated what feels like pounds of coins we don’t want to drag around.

They can surely use it to put towards the next dog that is rescued from abandonment, food for the strays that come in starving, or the dogs in the community that could benefit from the upcoming castration program. Many of these pet rescues throughout the country are stretching the donations that come in as far as they possibly can along with their free time. Remember every little bit helps in the innocent lives of these animals.

But if you can commit to the care and companionship of a furry friend, it can be one of the best relationships you may ever have in your life. The loyal love that a dog can give goes over and beyond many human relationships. I know I wouldn’t trade in my four-legged best friend Coconut for the world!

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