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Where can I adopt a dog

Where Can I Adopt a Dog in Central America?

To mark National Dog Day today, we look at seven dog rescue centers in Central America where you can adopt a new family member for your Central American life.

I never had dogs as a kid growing up in the UK. They were never a thing in our family, for one reason or another. I remember my family in the United States always had dogs, plus some school friends, so that was the limit of my dog loving life, until well into adulthood.

At the time, none of this bothered me. I wasn’t a dog person and I never missed what I’d never had… dogs didn’t cross my mind until I was into my 30s.

It was here in Costa Rica where I became a dog person when I met McGuinn. He was (still is, actually) a little black and white fella that literally ran into my life in 2009. I was living close to the Sabana Park in San Jose back then, and used to run there most mornings at the crack of dawn.

One morning, I’m coming to the end of my run when I look down to see this tiny dog running next to me.

Not behind me, not chasing me, but next to me. I sped up. So did he. Then I slowed down and so did he. This little dog was running with me.

I remember looking around for an owner or someone, but seeing nobody. I tried shooing him away but it didn’t work. Then I did my warm down exercises while he sat there and waited. I tried one more shoo-away and started walking home, with the dog following me.

At the time, we lived in a rented apartment with a strict no pets policy. Keeping him was out of the question as my other half reminded me when I got home, black and white shadow in tow. I knew all this of course, and had no intention of keeping him… I wasn’t a dog person, after all.

We made plans to find this dog a home, somewhere. Not with us, but somewhere. Sabana Park in 2009 was a notorious dog-dumping ground. People abandoned their pets there all the time, and I suspected this had happened to this little guy. Still, we printed out a bunch of Found Dog! posters and put them up all over the park, in supermarkets, in local vets, on lampposts, everywhere… and nothing happened.

Facebook was kind of in its infancy back then, but we also posted on there saying we’d found this little dog… and nothing. We were stuck with this dog and didn’t know what to do.

National Dog Day…

To cut a long story short, fast forward 13 years to 2022 and I’m still stuck with McGuinn, as we ended up calling him. He’s very old now (around 20), but still happy and still glued to my side. I guess he found me rather than me finding him.

We also adopted another dog since since those early years, a street dog with half a tail (machete strike) called Maguire. Maguire’s still around too, old and frail… but still around. I’m not embarrassed to say that McGuinn and Maguire are huge parts of my world. And I’m proud to finally call myself a dog person after years of thinking I wasn’t.

Which brings me to the reason for this article today, celebrating National Dog Day. This is surely one of the best National or International Whatever Days on the calendar.

National Dog Day was founded in 2004 to celebrate all things dog.

In the words of the organizers, National Dog Day is about galvanizing “the public to recognize the number of dogs that need to be rescued each year, either from public shelters, rescues and pure breed rescues.

And that’s where we thought we’d try to help.

Where can I adopt a dog in Central America?

Central America is full of stray and homeless street dogs. It’s one of the things many visitors notice when they arrive. Things are – in Costa Rica at least – better than they used to be, but there are still so many dogs in the region needing a home.

So today, we’ll highlight our favorite dog and pet rescue/adoption services around Central America. Each place works hard caring for, protecting, and finding homes for abandoned, ill-treated, and homeless dogs.

If you’re interested in adopting a dog, or want to donate to any of these places, feel free to contact any of the orgs mentioned below:


You’ll find the Cayo Animal Welfare Society in the town of Santa Elena, in Cayo District, Belize. They’re a volunteer group working with limited resources, doing wonders with housing lost and abandoned dogs (and cats) all over western Belize. CAWS is also great at highlighting the problem of animal abuse in Belize, and educating people about animal rights.

If you’re looking to adopt a dog in Belize, or want to help these guys with a few bucks, reach out to them on this National Dog Day.

Costa Rica

My two pooches came straight off the streets, but there are plenty of places in Costa Rica doing great work to get dogs connected with good homes. Rescate Animal ARA is our top choice. Their Instagram account posts daily pics and videos of dogs that come to them needing help, and they’ve managed to create an excellent social media presence, connecting dogs, rescuers, and families all over the country.

This should be a first port of call for anyone looking for a dog in Costa Rica.

El Salvador

In El Salvador, we recommend FHMD CatDog El Salvador, a family foundation in San Salvador, but with a reach all over the country. They’ve created a home for abandoned animals with the goal of finding families for them – but prepared to look after them for life if a family isn’t found. In short, an animal who ends up here is set forever.

They sometimes have dogs and cats numbering into the hundreds. This obviously costs money, so they appreciate any donations. And if you want to adopt any of their animals, that’s even more appreciated.

CatDog also runs inexpensive castration and sterilization campaigns to keep the street populations of animals down.


Perros Libres is a nonprofit based in the community of Tzununa on the shores of Lake Atitlán, Guatemala. In their own words, they provide “a transitional space for dogs to heal, live, and receive optimal love and affection which is what is lacking in the streets today.

They’re a community organization, helping provide work for locals and stimulation of the local economy through voluntourism efforts.

Contact Perros Libres for more info on this National Dog Day.


The island of Utila, Honduras is home to a wonderful rescue center called Jasper’s Utila Animal Shelter. They rescue, rehabilitate, treat, and look after abandoned animals all over the island and then help find them homes, both in Honduras and abroad.

Jasper’s also offers basic veterinary services for islanders and their pets. They’re a huge asset to Utila and deserve their shout out here for National Dog Day.


SOS Animales Nicaragua in San Juan del Sur is our shout out for Nicaragua on this National Dog Day. They provide a valuable service in San Juan del Sur, providing veterinary services, animal welfare education, adoption/foster services, and more.

Reach out to them for more info on adopting a pet, volunteering, or helping out with a little money.


The beach community of Gorgona, Panama, near Playa Coronado, is home to a small nonprofit called Panama Andy’s. They’ve been in the area since 2017, rescuing stray dogs and cats, arranging adoptions, and providing food, shelter and care.

Anyone seeking to adopt a Panamanian homeless beach dog would do well to contact this organization.

That’s our list of seven dog rescue centers around Central America on this National Dog Day

If you’re living in the region and want a furry family member to enhance your Central American life, there’s no better day than today to get the wheels in motion. And if that’s not possible, any of these orgs could use a little financial love, or even for you to spread the word about them.

There are few things better in life than having dogs around. Happy National Dog Day!

James Dyde is the editor of He lives in Escazu, Costa Rica.

James Dyde

James Dyde

James Dyde is a British immigrant to Costa Rica and the editor of this website. He has lived in Central America since 2000 and retains a deep love for the region. He lives in Escazu, Costa Rica.