BUFFALO, NY – Six students in the Canisius College Master’s Program in Anthrozoology traveled to Puerto Rico from May 29 - June 5 to study dog behavior and learn about the mainland island’s massive stray dog population. No one knows exactly how many homeless dogs (referred to as “satos”) live in this US territory, but estimates range from 100,000 to into the millions. The group traveled under the guidance of Christy L. Hoffman, PhD, an assistant professor in the Animal Behavior, Ecology and Conservation (ABEC) and Anthrozoology Programs. They include:
- Kaitlyn Simmons ’15
- Moira Mahaney ’15
- Adriana Pisano Beaumont ’15
- Chrissy Case ’16
- Jennifer Myers ’16
- Lauren Bradley ’15
The group visited the headquarters of a number of humane organizations, including Pare Este, Island Dog Rescue, El Faro de los Animales, Second Chance Animal Rescue and the Humane Society of Puerto Rico, where students donated money from their own fundraising efforts to spay/neuter programs as well as collars, leashes and dog toys.
“The goal of this trip was to expose Anthrozoology students to the stray dog situation in Puerto Rico and to a variety of organizations that work to help the dogs,” says Hoffman. “The stray dog situation is not new, but is likely being exacerbated by Puerto Rico’s increasingly depressed economy and by the large number of people vacating the island as a result of there being so few employment opportunities.”
Hoffman adds since the euthanasia rate at animal shelters in Puerto Rico is 90 percent, people who cannot keep their animals may choose to abandon them on the beach, thinking their chance of survival is better. The group visited one beach multiple times to study the behaviors of the homeless dogs and met a woman who has been feeding the dogs at that beach for three years.
“This woman has partnered with the homeless men who live on the beach to protect the dogs,” adds Hoffman. “Government interest in protecting the stray dogs is minimal.”
But the group did witness some glimmers of hope.
“We were able to witness the transport of 19 puppies via American Airlines cargo to their new adoptive homes in Massachusetts, organized by All Sato Rescue," says Adriana Pisano Beaumont ’15. “This trip has brought me to places I never knew existed and caused me to deeply examine my thoughts about animal rescue philosophies."
The Canisius College Master’s Program in Anthrozoology is an on-line program that focuses on the positive value of human animal relations. A major emphasis is on an examination of the relationships between people and their companion animals, but the scope of the program also includes animal use in science, industry, agriculture, and zoos.
Click here to learn more information about the Master’s Program in Anthrozoology.
Click here to learn more about the Animal Behavior, Ecology and Conservation (ABEC) program.
Photos courtesy Adriana Pisano Beaumont ’15.
Canisius is one of 28 Jesuit universities in the nation and the premier private university in Western New York.