Canine Rescue Center in Punta Arenas

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By Bruce Willett
One of the things tourists often notice when arriving to Chile is the abundance of stray dogs.  This is especially true in Punta Arenas, a southern port city overlooking the Strait of Magellan.  When I first arrived to Punta Arenas in 1999, I noted the wandering dogs immediately. Many of them once had an owner, it seems, but had since been abandoned and left to fend for themselves. Perhaps the pet owner tired of the dog once it outgrew the puppy stage, or perhaps they moved.  Whatever the reason, it is not uncommon for people to desert dogs on city streets far from their home or out in the country. Though some of these stray dogs appear adjusted and healthy, there are numerous cases of street dogs that suffer from injuries, sickness, poisoning, and even starvation. Many abandoned dogs simply don’t know how to survive on the streets.
Unfortunately, the Chilean federal and local governments do not regularly provide animal control services.  The police may take action in cases of dangerous animals such as aggressive dogs, and cases of serious injury or neglect may receive care from a kindhearted individual or veterinarian.  But for the most part, there aren’t public programs in place in Chile to look after stray animals. 
The Municipality of Punta Arenas, however, is one of the few local governments in Chile that does operate an animal shelter.  Its Canine Rescue Center (CRC) is the southern-most animal shelter in the world and currently cares for more than 100 dogs. With help from paid staff, volunteers, and non-profit organizations, the center provides rescue, shelter, sterilization, and education programs. Several veterinarians help provide low-cost medical services including discounted spay/neuter operations and dignified euthanasia. With the help of police, CRC responds to reported cases of cruelty and neglect.
The dogs at the Punta Arenas Canine Rescue Center are not locked in cages, but instead stay in large pens where they can run around and play.  Volunteers from schools and non-profit organizations work several days a week to organize adoption events, assist with cleaning and maintenance, and simply get the dogs outside. One project provides curriculum about responsible pet ownership.  In another, a group of high school students volunteer as part of their school’s community service program.
If you happen to be in Punta Arenas, you can visit the Canine Rescue Center at Route 9 North, Km 9.5 Rio Seco. Phone: (61) 2 200-502 or email: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it  
Below, photos of the Canine Rescue Center:
Bruce Willett has been a volunteer or director of the non-profit Corporation for the Defense of Animal Rights (CODDA) in Punta Arenas since 1999. He is also a mapping consultant and director of SIG Patagon, which produces maps of Patagonia