One thing many visitors notice when arriving in Chile is the large quantity of stray dogs especially in Punta Arenas, a beautiful coastal city in Patagonia. To many, it appears chaotic to have all these animals wandering around. Though mostly tame, they do cause problems. Numerous issues such as; car accidents, dog bites, strewn garbage, transmittable parasites/diseases, attacks on wildlife and livestock and the several tons of animal waste deposited throughout the city daily. Many of these animals had owners but are often dumped and left to their own devices. People tire of the grown puppy, pregnant female, messy Cocker, dangerous Rottweiler or have to move to a different region. The solution often is to dump on a street far from home or out in the country. Though many strays in the city center appear accustomed and healthy, maybe a little shaggy, numerous cases exist of horrible injuries, poisoning, neglect, sickness and starvation. The Chilean federal and local governments do not regularly provide animal control services.
Filling in this gap is CODDA (Corporación de Defensa de los Derechos de los Animales, a federally recognized Chilean non-profit, operating a shelter since 1991 and working with local government on enforcement, education and sterilization. The Founder Senora Helia Tagle and a small group started the organization in 1990 to stop the street poisoning of dogs to combat the over population. Currently CODDA is the only animal shelter in Chilean Patagonia. Although they are a relatively small organization with a low budget and just a handful of supporters and volunteers, they are making strides. They currently house up to 160 dogs and cats, stress adoptions, sponsor small scale spay/neuter, pick up abandoned or injured animals and run public education campaigns. The cooperation of several veterinarians (private and public)provides low cost medical services, discounted spay/neuter and dignified euthanasia and the local university veterinary program utilizes the shelter as a weekly working classroom. Education and changing the culture of “irresponsibility” is a big focus for this organization as is getting to the root of the problems.
Because of their hard work, CODDA has managed to stop the poising of street dogs in Punta Arenas, they have assisted over 3000 dogs and cats since 1991 and they created and implemented the first ever long-term spay and neuter program in the area. Slowly, they are changing the culture of neglect but they need our help to continue this remarkable mission. Funds are depleting, and support is at a bare minimum.