Consortium Implementing Partner
The Asociacion Humanitaria para la Proteccion Animal de Costa Rica (AHPPA) is the Consortium Implementing Partner (CIP) for the Global Dog Campaign in Costa Rica. AHPPA is located in San Rafael, a suburb of Heredia in Costa Rica’s central valley.
In 1991, Ms. Lilian Schnog took on the responsibility for an animal shelter AHPPA (or Refugio) with a few small cages, a leaky surgical room, and more than 100 cats and dogs in residence. At the time, Costa Rica’s approach to animal overpopulation was to poison the animals in the streets. Dogs and cats “lucky” enough to have a home was seen as working animals. Some believed that a hungry cat would catch more mice and a chained dog would be a better watchdog. Many were fed leftovers but, if there were none, the animals remained hungry. When the animals were no longer useful or wanted by their owners, they would be thrown out on the street. Since many of the abandoned animals were females, the overpopulation of stray animals was a significant problem.
Ms. Schnog first had to convince officials to take stray dogs and cats to the Refugio (rather than simply killing them) where they could be sterilized and potentially adopted into homes and then set about building Refugio’s infrastructure and impact.
The facility has flourished under her leadership. In 1999, the AHPPA annual budget was around $150,000 (80% of which came from veterinary fees). Almost twenty years later, the AHPPA budget had grown to $550,000 annually with about 70% coming from veterinary fees. (Note: even though the shelter charges for veterinary assistance, no animal that needs help is turned away simply because the owner/caregiver cannot afford to pay.) AHPPA’s outreach programs have also played an important part in the success of its sterilization programs as well.
AHPPA has been sterilizing thousands of companion animals every year and the adoption of animals from the shelter is now commonplace. As the health and status of the animals in the neighborhood of the shelter has improved, an outreach program was established to provide no/low cost spay/neuter and other veterinary services in rural communities outside the central valley and down towards the coasts. AHPPA has been reporting annual numbers of animals sterilized and adopted for the last fifteen years. In addition, there have been two surveys of human-dog interaction conducted in 2003 and 2011 by the World Society for the Protection of Animals (now World Animal Protection) that document significant changes in dog management in Costa Rica.
AHPPA will be continuing its animal care and sterilization program while the Global Dog Campaign will undertake a series of surveys to document changes in dog population, in dog management in the country and in the number of street dogs in different parts of the country.
The Global Dog Campaign has conducted a household survey in Costa Rica that identifies dog ownership rates in the country as well as household dog management behaviors. For example, the earlier surveys documented an increase in the proportion of dogs sleeping indoors (from 27% to 54% in eight years). The latest household survey conducted by the Global Dog Campaign indicates that two-thirds of dogs are now sleeping indoors and that far fewer dogs are free to roam on the streets.
The relationship between dogs and humans has changed significantly in certain regions in Costa Rica in the past twenty to thirty years. This change can be observed anecdotally in the drop in street dog numbers (in Heredia, there were many dogs roaming the streets during the day in 1999 but very few street dogs can be observed today) but these changes need to be documented in a more systematic and rigorous manner. In a recent survey by WBI, the data indicated that there are more dogs roaming the streets in other provinces in the country. There has also been a significant increase in the number of private veterinary practices in the country in the last twenty years (also indirectly indicating a change in human-animal relationships in the country). Costa Rica offers the opportunity to document the change in human-dog interaction in an entire country. The Global Dog Campaign believes the changes currently occurring in Costa Rica took place in the USA in the twenty-five years post-WWII and are possibly occurring elsewhere in Latin America and the world today. Costa Rica provides a very interesting laboratory to explore these changes and their underlying causes as a model for encouraging similar changes in other countries.