Crisis Heroes: Coming Together To Help Pet Owners And Street Dogs In Costa Rica

In our search for positive stories coming out of the coronavirus crisis in Central America, here’s a great one from San Jose, Costa Rica, where businesses are linking up to provide food for street dogs and to help desperate dog owners in need. Here, we introduce Anna-Maya Moberg and Luis Reyes as our latest coronavirus crisis heroes. 

The economic crisis in the early days of the coronavirus shutdown in Costa Rica is already starting to bite.

In a country that relies so much on tourism, many people have lost their jobs and have little prospect of earning anything anytime soon. It’s a desperate situation.

And something we often forget is that a lot of those people who have lost their jobs or seen their incomes cut have dogs they now can’t afford to feed.

When I first came to this part of the world, way back at the turn of the millennium, the number of street dogs in Costa Rica shocked me.                                                                                                                                  

They were everywhere, in various states of disarray, and as a dog lover, I admit I found it distressing.

But things have gotten better over the years. Although you’ll still see street dogs around, it’s not as bad as it was. And the development of a larger middle-class in the country has seen more people take dogs into their homes and treat them well. It’s not perfect – no place is perfect – but it’s way better than it used to be.

A sad fact of life during a recession, though, is the spike in homeless and abandoned pets.

It would be a terrible shame – a crime – if the economic fallout from the coronavirus saw a rise in abandoned dogs as their owners can no longer afford to look after them. It would be like going back in time. I can honestly see that happening, and outside of a few solid shelters where people do some great work, no-one will care about these animals.

Well, not exactly no-one. There are some great people out there, people concerned at this early stage about our four-legged family members.

Anna-Maya Moberg, a Swedish ex-pat living in Escazu, outside of San Jose, is one of them. She’s lived in Costa Rica since 2005 and owns local outsourcing service iWantHelp.

Moberg has teamed up with Luis Reyes, owner of Escazu-based Animal Services, a dog walking, pet-sitting, and all-round animal concierge. Between the two of them, plus any other willing volunteers, they plan to get at as much dog food as they can out this weekend in San Jose to those dogs (and owners) who need it most.

They’ve managed to solicit the help of Jaime Delgado from Cartago-based agricultural supplies business Concentrados Gaston Fernandez in providing 165 kilos of dog food to start with this weekend.  

“I’ve always loved dogs and have three myself,” said Moberg.

“It’s been worrying me a lot since this started that stray dogs here won’t be able to fend for themselves now we have to stay at home. I know many kind people donate food to shelters and such, but there’s a much more significant need right now. I’m also worried about people not being able to afford dog food as unemployment in Costa Rica increases. I want to help these families to avoid them feeling no choice but to kick their pets out the door.

“We plan to go to downtown San Jose on Sunday, April 5th to donate dog food, water, and also sandwiches to the homeless. Plenty of homeless people in San Jose have dogs who they look after. These dogs are their best friends and protection during already tough times. Now that most people are off the streets, who’s helping these people and their dogs?

“We’re brainstorming ideas on how to continue doing this as the economic fallout from coronavirus escalates, and are open to any ideas, help, or donations.”

“When Maya asked me if I could help her with this, I couldn’t say no”, said Reyes.

“I work with dogs and their owners every day, and I’m seeing with my own eyes how difficult it’s getting for them, even in the space of two short weeks since the lockdowns started in Costa Rica. It’ll break my heart if people end up abandoning their pets, and we’ll do whatever we can to try to stop that happening.”

Moberg hopes that if she can distribute this first 165 kilos successfully, then this project might become a more permanent thing.                                                                                                                                                  

Maybe it’ll encourage other people all over Costa Rica to set up dog feeding initiatives of their own.

For more information on how to help, or if you have any suggestions on how to organize this, please contact either Anna-Maya Moberg at maya@iwanthelp.com or Luis Reyes through the Animal Services Facebook page.

You might want to help them distribute food in San Jose, donate food, or even set up your own dog feeding project. Either way, they would be grateful to hear from you and maybe brainstorm together on how to help stray and abandoned dogs in Costa Rica over the coming weeks and months.

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