Juliana Hatfield Adopts, Sheds Light On “Sato” Problem

By Karen Bliss 2/3/10 | www.samaritanmag.com

Musician Juliana Hatfield, whose 10th solo album, Peace And Love, comes out February 16, is a strong supporter of animal rights organizations and has become increasingly interested in the sato (street dog) problem in Puerto Rico.

“I’ve been researching it,” Hatfield tells Samaritanmag. “Puerto Rico has a very bad stray dog problem. The dogs are called ‘satos’ and this woman [Chantal Robles] in Puerto Rico started this shelter, Save A Sato [www.saveasato.org], to take in dogs from the street.

“There are many shelters and kind individuals on the island of Puerto Rico who rescue these dogs, many of which are abused and injured. People will see a dog in the street and they’ll hit it on purpose or sometimes dogs are poisoned or machete-ed because there are so many of them, they’re like a nuisance to people.”

Hatfield herself has adopted two satos, one from a local shelter in Massachusetts which died last summer; the other she rescued from a beach in Puerto Rico just this past weekend. “I will be taking him home soon,” she says. Tourists visiting Puerto Rico may adopt a stray and bring it back to the U.S. with no quaranteen needed.  The Save A Sato website contains details on the procedures.

“If you’re flying on American Airlines from Puerto Rico to certain cities in the United States, you can bring a dog with you in a crate [you can be a passenger escort for several dogs back to the partner shelters],” says Hatfield. “Shelters will put the dogs in the crates and you don’t have to pay anything and then the volunteer from the States-side shelter will come and pick them up.”

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Julian Hatfield with two of her dogs; the black and white sato died last summer

Save A Sato is a non-profit organization dedicated to easing the suffering of Puerto Rico's homeless and abused animals. They rescue satos from the streets and beaches, give them medical care, food and shelter. When they are healthy, they send them to one of their shelter partners for adoption into loving homes.

“We fly satos to Boston, Hartford, and New York City and only on American [Airlines],” says Donna Lenz, Save A Sato’s U.S. shelter and transport coordinator. “Save A Sato volunteers bring the dogs to the airport in San Juan. They meet the passenger at the American counter.  It’s a formality to check the dogs in, and an FAA requirement since 9/11.  It costs us $150 per kennel to fly the dogs.  When the dogs arrive in the U.S., our partner shelters are there to meet them.  I’ve done it many times myself and it’s a rewarding experience.” Lenz owns two satos and two gatos (street cats).

The Save A Sato web site contains information on the laws and regulations that need to be followed if you find a sato while visiting Puerto Rico that you would like to take home, as well as how to adopt one from within the United States (for Canadian readers, contact your local Society for the Prevention of Cruelty for Animals and inquire if adoption of satos is possible), including a list of shelters and rescue groups.   If you’re traveling to Puerto Rico and are interested in flying back with the satos, email donna@saveasato.org prior to coming to the island.

Hatfield is currently volunteering at a local shelter, which gets a lot of dogs from Puerto Rico, she says. She used to volunteer at the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (MSPCA) in one of its adoption centres. “I’m very involved and interested in this whole cause of innocent, suffering animals — dogs mainly.”

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* Samaritanmag.com is an online magazine covering the good deeds of individuals, charities and businesses.