When Ginny Cornett visited Puerto Rico in the summer of 2005, she encountered a population of sad, sick, emaciated dogs roaming the beach near Yabucoa. Nicknamed “Dead Dog Beach”, the place is a dumping ground for unwanted canines. She was working in the area for only a few short days each month, but spent a few minutes in the mornings petting them and speaking kindly to them, hoping to convey a message of hope. She made several visits to that beach and finally in June 2006, Manos por Patas (Hands for Paws) was launched.
The project began as a way to feed and provide triage medical care for severely injured and ill animals, but grew into a multi-program effort to change the paths for future animals on that beach and on the entire island of Puerto Rico. Cornett sent out a simple email to friends and family with a description of what she had seen and some pictures of the dogs there. The response was overwhelming, and soon she was able to set up the first sterilization “round up”. Dr. Gwen Davis of PAWS (Puerto Rican Animal Welfare Society) went to Yabucoa and provided sterilizations and rabies vaccinations for as many animals as they could round up. Then came more help from two area veterinarians who agreed to provide reduced cost services to rescuers in the area to continue the sterilizations, further reducing future populations of miserable, suffering dogs.
In addition to population control, Manos por Patas is on a mission to bring humane animal care and shelter practices to the island. Beyond spaying and neutering of the “satos” (mixed breed stray dogs), they want to provide a shelter building and fenced grounds area to protect the dogs from weather as well as from individuals who would harm them. They want to provide on-site medical care for satos throughout Puerto Rico including vaccinations, treatment for heartworm, treatment for internal and external parasites, and other medical care as necessary. They want to increase public awareness about spaying and neutering and provide education in the schools to teach against animal cruelty and about Law 67 which makes cruelty towards animals a crime.
Lastly, and most controversially, Manos por Patas places adoptable animals in U.S. shelters for adoption.
According to a recent news article, hundreds of abandoned dogs are being flown to the U.S., and satos are becoming of a trendy souvenir of trips to the Caribbean. Critics say the canine airlift does little to reduce the problem of stray dogs in Puerto Rico and ends up fueling overcrowding at the U.S. shelters, where many of the dogs inevitably end up. The Humane Society discourages such measures and instead wants Puerto Rico and other parts of the Caribbean to develop their own animal welfare programs.
Source: Manos por Patas