Cats, Dogs and... Puerto!

by Gretell de Gala

“The protection of animals is an essential part of the morality and culture of civizilized peoples.”
—Benito Juárez García, Benemérito de las Américas.

Jaime Arroyo & Alejandro García Soto of
Esteriliza y Educa.
Jaime Arroyo & Alejandro García Soto of Esteriliza y Educa.

Eight years ago, when Alejandro García Soto —better known as “the dog guy of the Punta”— arrived in Puerto, he planned on selling coffee like most of his family. But he couldn’t avoid noticing the terrible condition of the street dogs: the problems of overpopulation, disease, excrement and the indifference of the community.

This led him to organize his friends and neighbors and, together with another community organization, he began a campaign to raise consciousness and to rescue and sterilize the Punta’s cats and dogs. In eight years around 4,000 animals were sterilized.

A year and half ago, he and four other animal lovers, formed a group called Esteriliza y Educa. In that time, they have sterilized around 500 cats and dogs, examined over 100 animals and performed various surgical operations.

Alejandro notes that he has seen litters of up to 18 pups in the Punta, but even normal litters of five or six can have alarming consequences. A bitch may start reproducing as early as six months; before you know it, one litter can engender thousands of dogs.

The question is: why aren’t there even more cats and dogs on the streets? Sterilizations, of course, but the animal population is also controlled by poisonings, cars, and assorted acts of violence, or simply hunger. Very few have the good luck to live in a house with a responsible owner.

Alejandro and the veterinarian Jaime Arroyo donate their time to the project and depend on the help of volunteers. At first they charged nothing except what people wanted to contribute. But they found that the costs were greater than the contributions, and now there is a flat fee of $250 pesos for each sterilization regardless of the sex or size of the dog or cat.

Esteriliza y Educa hopes to get community and eventually governmental support to carry out at least two sterilization campaigns a year. A campaign that reaches around 250 animals costs approximately $60,000 pesos.

If you wish to donate or volunteer, call 954 101-7176 or visit the center on calle Justo Salvador in Brisas de Zicatela (La Punta). The hours are 10-12 and 4-5 Monday to Friday, 10-12 on Saturday. Sundays by appointment.

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