Paws For The Cause

Paws For The Cause

By volunteer: Carlie Jenney, interviewing Shelter Director Adrienne Galler Lastra

Backstory:

In many countries throughout the world, the mistreatment and overpopulation of animals has been a problem. Puerto Rico is no exception; the issue has been relevant for a very long time and the problem has only intensified. Not many people realize the severity of the issue.

The exact number of stray animals is a mystery, but the number is significantly large. The problem of overpopulation could be fixed over time if people began to spay and neuter their pets. This way the dogs wouldn’t be able to continuously reproduce on the streets. However, cultural beliefs (that spaying and neutering is not right or unnatural); low economic resources; and a lack of education as to the purpose of spaying and neutering, hold some people back from making that commitment to their pets.

The stray dogs of Puerto Rico are referred to as “satos” which is Puerto Rican slang for street dogs. Not only are these animals roaming the streets searching for food, reproducing and becoming sick, they are being abused and often times mistreated: abuse sometimes is as extreme as being put in plastic bags, shot or taunted.

There aren’t many organizations able to help or government assistance, so small rescues based out of people’s homes are struggling to raise awareness and educate as many people as possible, on top of helping the animals themselves.

Jenney’s Interview of Adri Galler, “Guardian de los Satos,” (Protector of the Satos), in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, September 20, 2017

Amigos de los Animales (ADLA) is a dog rescue based out of a woman’s home in Puerto Rico. Now that Hurricane Maria has hit the island, things have gotten harder and harder for ADLA. The woman who somehow balances getting back on her feet from this horrible natural disaster AND taking care of the dogs being tied to her porch is more than a hero in the eyes of many people.

Many know her as the Guardian of the Satos. Satos is the Puerto Rican slang for ” street dog”. In other words, she is the guardian of the street digs. There are nearly 300,000 stray dogs roaming the streets. To put that into perspective, for every 11 people there’s one stray dog.

Adri feeding one of 10 new-born puppies who’s mom had to go through a cesarean and would not give her puppies milk. All 10 puppies survived and were sent to Shadow Rose Farm in Kentucky.

How did you get involved in this field?

Guardian of the Satos Adri Galler Lastra has lived in Puerto Rico since she was 19. During this time she studied Music Education; cared for her mother in her mom’s house in the beach town of Piñones, Loiza; and noticed the ill-treatment of the animals around her: “It has always been a horrible issue with the animals in Puerto Rico,” she recalls. When Adri’s mother passed away she explains that her heart told her to do something, something good. She was left with a house and her passion for animals and the problem they faced in Puerto Rico.

So, she took advantage of the opportunity and started rescuing dogs one by one. “And it happened that I became a shelter, I couldn’t leave these dogs to fend for themselves. People think they can fend for themselves, they’re domesticated and there’re pets.”  At one point, there were over 115 dogs she took care of by herself. She does everything in her ability to accommodate as many dogs as she can. Adri puts emphasis on the fact that she was chosen to do this and that she is not a hero. Of course she is a hero, who is doing an amazing thing for a very good cause.

ADLA residents on their crates during Saturday Cleaning Day. ADLA will have between 55 to 70 dogs at the Shelter at one time.

Who are you protecting?

Adri’s hero name is a perfect way to explain who she is protecting. Guardian of the Satos, protector of the street dogs, she is their saving grace. Since most dogs are domesticated they aren’t built to be out in the elements, and it shortens their lifespan, they have to deal with a lot of horrible stuff. She is protecting the dogs, because they can’t protect themselves.

As time goes on, and more people become educated as to properly caring for their pets, with the help of the Guardian of the Satos, the situation will improve. Already, more people are beginning to feed and rescue the strays.


ADLA does not have an on-site veterinarian. Veterinary Assistant students from EDIC College in Carolina, Puerto Rico regularly come to give check-ups to the dogs.

Why is this such a big problem and how can it be fixed?

It’s a problem because not enough people care (or know) about the overpopulation issue. The dogs continue to multiply because many of them were never fixed by their owners. The only way this problem will ever come to an end is through education and awareness: “The effort to save animals, goes towards educating people.” People need to be more responsible, sterilize their animals, and not dump them when they are no longer wanted.

Adri explains how she raises awareness to rescue, rehabilitate and rehome as many dogs as possible. She dedicates her life to capturing these injured and sick dogs, fix them up, and in most cases, sends them to the United States for adoption at partner no-kill shelters. It’s also important to raise awareness for sterilization. If people know they’re planning on getting a dog, they should be responsible pet owners and get them fixed.

In Puerto Rico a majority of the stray animals receive an injury of some sort. Whether it is broken bones, lost limbs, disease, virus of some sort, its always something. Adri has personal experience with rescuing dogs in this state. Some of them don’t always make it, because they are too sick or too broken. Adri’s mission is to help as many as she can.

Micah was rescued early 2018. He had an old wound on his underbelly which had partially healed over. He was recently flown to a no-kill shelter in New Hampshire for a faster adoption.

How did Hurricane Maria impact your rescue?

The hurricane was horrifying for anybody who decided to stay and wait out the storm, which turned out to be a category 5 hurricane with nearly 180 mph winds. There were many fatalities, and carcasses scattered the grounds. After the storm happened and a few days had gone by, ” people started leaving their dogs on my doorstep. People should not have been allowed to treat animals this way; the natural disaster turned into a human disaster,” Adri declared.

The storm has made it very hard to Puerto Rico to progress. There are so many dogs each day that Adri sees and can just not take in for lack of space, energy and resources. She is doing everything she can to take in as many as possible, but there is only so much she can do.

Luckily, the ADLA shelter weathered the storm, and the organization is still rescuing and rehoming, as well as raising consciousness within the community. You can help by follow ADLA on Twitter, Instagram or Facebook and sharing photos of their pets to increase adoption and visibility! To contact Adri directly, email adri@amigosdelosanimalespr.org.

To donate to Amigos de los Animales and Adri’s rescue mission, click here or send a check to:

Amigos de los Animales, Inc.
PO Box 79477
Carolina, Puerto Rico 00984

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