Calling All Dog Lovers: You Can Hike with 900 Dogs in Costa Rica

All dogs deserve a family ©Matt Chan/Flickr
All dogs deserve a family ©Matt Chan/Flickr
Photo of Jenn Parker
27 July 2017

There is a place of puppy dog dreams tucked in the mountains outside of Santa Barbara de Heredia in Costa Rica that is providing an extraordinary service for stray street dogs. Here, dogs are welcomed with open and loving arms. All dogs deserve love, affection, shelter, veterinarian care, and food. Sadly, for thousands of dogs in Costa Rica, that is not the life they are living until the end up in the Territorio de Zaguates.

What is the Territorio de Zaguates?

In Costa Rica, mixed breeds, mutts or mongrels, as well as stray or street dogs, are referred to as zaguates, hence the name, Territorio de Zaguates. Lya Battle and Alvaro Saumet are the noble dog guardians and owners of the “Land of the Mutts.” For the past eight years, they have been working selflessly and tirelessly to promote well-being and respect for animals in Costa Rica. Their non-profit, volunteer and donation run, no-kill dog shelter is home to around 900 dogs. Each dog receives deworming and any necessary veterinarian care, sufficient food, safe shelter, and infinite love. Some dogs are lucky enough to get adopted from the shelter, while others will spend the remainder of their lives on the mountain. Either way, each dog is treated with respect, love, and the care that they need and deserve.

Where is the Territorio de Zaguates?

The Territorio de Zaguates is located just an hour outside of downtown San Jose. While you can drive there yourself, you might find it far easier to just take the shuttle that is provided by the shelter for around $6. You must arrange and pay for the shuttle in advance by sending a message via WhatsApp to 8815-2514 including your full name, date of arrival, and number of seats. The shelter is not open to the public expect for days that there are scheduled walks. The reason for this being that there is far too much work that needs to be done on a daily basis for the volunteers to continually stop to tend to drop-by visitors. The dogs come first here. The shelter is open to the public between two and seven times a month. There is a set schedule that you can find on their website or Facebook page.

Want to take a walk with 900 dogs?

Several times a month, there are scheduled walks where you can you come and spend time in the canine paradise. The idea behind opening these walks to the public is to give the dogs an opportunity to interact with and receive love and attention from people other than their caregivers and to inspire adoptions and donations. Most of these beautiful souls have never had a family of their own and it is during these walks that they get to experience what it might be like to have one. The walk is approximately three kilometers long and goes from 9am until 12:30. It is asked that you arrive promptly at 8:45 (not earlier or not later). The walk is completely free.

How can you help?

The Territorio de Zaguates is run entirely by donations and volunteer help. There are a number of ways you can help this incredible shelter and the wonderful pups who rely on it. It costs $36 a month per dog (veterinarian care, shelter, and food). Multiply that by 900 and you are looking at a very sizeable expense. You can help by sponsoring a dog ($36 a month) or making a one time donation through The biggest way to help though is through adoption. You might be surprised to find out that it is actually quite easy to export a dog from Costa Rica. There are so many dogs at the shelter that they can’t take anymore in at the moment. So, in order for them to be able to help more homeless dogs out there, the ones here need to find loving and permanent homes. Come talk a walk and find that furry soul that steals your heart!

Adopt a friend for life | ©Anna Bruguera/Flickr

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