A woman is devoting her life to saving dogs abandoned on a beach named Dead Dog Beach in Puerto Rico – and now they are coming to the U.S. to be adopted.
There is a beach in Puerto Rico tragically named Dead Dog Beach. Here, live dogs are abandoned in large numbers by people too poor or careless to continue owning them.
In there, like trash, these dogs are thrown away. Some are even tossed out of moving cars by people who don’t know or care if they feel pain. Many dogs here are weak, starving, and wounded. Many have pellets embedded in their skin, and others are missing entire limbs or ears. Most are covered in mange or fleas.
Once a thriving tourist attraction, this beach was abandoned by the government in the wake of economic disaster. The beach – also called Sato (“street dog”) Beach – is truly Hell on earth for dogs.
An Angel Arrives
Christina Beckles was a marketing executive from New York City who went to visit her husband in Puerto Rico while he worked as a stuntman on a Benicio del Toro film there. It was 2007, and Beckles was also training to be a Golden Gloves Boxer at Gleason’s Gym in Brooklyn.
But when she stumbled upon Sato Beach, she was absolutely horrified. She saw dogs running in packs, suffering under the sweltering sun while enduring extreme malnourishment. Beckles was overwhelmed.
She saw many injured dogs – dogs who had been hit by cars and a slew of pups missing their back right legs.
“Many of the dogs were gravely injured. There were dogs who had been hit by cars. There were a slew of dogs missing their back right hind legs.”
Beckles said a fire was lit beneath her; she could not leave and let these dogs suffer. She had to do something to help these suffering creatures.
She returned to Puerto Rico to volunteer for different animal groups. Soon, she quit her lucrative New York job to start her own nonprofit, The Sato Project.
At first, she could only rescue one dog at a time. She felt horrible leaving all the others behind. But eventually, she gained traction.
She has an office for her group at Gleason’s Gym, with the motto, “We fight so the dogs of Puerto Rico don’t have to.”
To date, Beckles has saved more than 1,800 dogs from Puerto Rico, and has launched educational programs in that region as well.
Photographer Sophie Gamand‘s site has a large collection of photos from the beach.
Turning Hell Back into Paradise
Currently, there are only nine animal shelters in Puerto Rico, and an astounding 90 percent of the dogs in these shelters are euthanized.
These shelters do not receive government funds, and the staff are overwhelmed with too many dogs and too few resources.
Beckles attributes much of the abuse and neglect to lack of education and awareness, and is working to change that.
She has observed that many residents running over dogs willingly. Children learn this from their parents, and continue the cycle. Beckles aims to stop the carelessness in its tracks by educating locals – starting with the kids.
“We fight so the dogs of Puerto Rico don’t have to.”
Because of the “machismo” culture, the practice of neutering is often shunned on the island. The Sato Project also educates the community on neutering in an effort to change this trend.
In addition, the new government is attempting to revive this beach and revitalize its port. These combined efforts are helping change the landscape of Dead Dog Beach into a brand new place altogether.
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Finding Homes for the Forgotten
Beckles has placed many of the abused dogs with families. Now, the Sato Project is undertaking its most ambitious attempt yet: to rescue all the rest.
Tomorrow, August 23rd, the Sato Project will collaborate with Wings of Rescue and the Humane Society of the United States to fly 200 dogs from Puerto Rico to the U.S., where they are to be adopted.
Being the largest dog transport ever from Puerto Rico, Beckles has dubbed this effort Mission Possible 8.
The dogs will fly in two private cargo planes. One will arrive in Fort Lauderdale, FL. The other will go to Raleigh, NC.
A team of professional stuntmen and riggers – led by Beckles’ husband, Bobby – will load the dogs into the planes in Puerto Rico to ensure a safe flight.
Upon landing, the dogs will be met by veterinarians and the Humane Society. They will be examined and put into vehicles for transport up the East Coast.
There will be stops in Washington, DC, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and New York.
In NYC, the dogs will go to Animal Haven and the Animal Rescue Fund of the Hamptons. The Sato Project will also adopt out 31 dogs themselves, homing them in their foster network in New York.
Many of the 200 dogs are older. On average, it costs $1,000 – $1,500 for Beckles to rescue one dog.
To donate to Mission Possible 8, please click here.
A New Day Dawns in Puerto Rico
In addition to performing these rescues, the Sato Project conducts educational programs and gives locals vouchers to help alleviate the costs of owning dogs.
And today, Dead Dog Beach is virtually unrecognizable because of Beckles’ efforts.
The new mayor has removed some dilapidated warehouses, and an atrium is being built for public events.
Food vendors and fish markets will be set up to revitalize the port economically. Garbage and dead dogs on this beach are going to be nonexistent.
Beckles has petitioned to get the local government to build a gate on the beach to prevent dog dumping. So far they have built one, but Beckles would like to see 2.
Today, you can walk on the beach and at times not see one single dog.
As it should be.
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