Estimated Reading Time: 6 Minutes
Until recently, dogs were not part of most families in Costa Rica, nor was there any pet culture at all. Now, almost everyone has one or more pets at home.
Some years ago, people were complaining that in their condominiums, dog owners wouldn’t clean up the poop their dogs leave behind.
This reminded me of a vacation Dany and I had in Las Vegas in 2011. We went to Lake Mead on the Nevada and Arizona state lines. There are several campgrounds right on the lake. This is where I found this Pet Waste Bag pole shown in the picture, something unheard of in Costa Rica in those days. Now we have pet parks in many places (Escazu has 3), and they have poop bags and water faucets, a playground for dogs, and they’re well-fenced.
- Canino Park San Antonio Escazu
- La Boa Park between Avenida Escazu and Trejos Montealegre
- Buenaventura Dog park Trejos Montealegre
- Check here for Dog parks in other areas of the country
Unfortunately, there is still so much difference between a pet-friendly culture in other countries and ours. I see that many people are still unaware of what is necessary to enjoy your pet and have a happy one. This blog is another attempt to explain the cultural differences you will find when you move to Costa Rica that you will need to adjust to.
You’ll find more and more pet-friendly places. Avenida Escazu is a totally pet-friendly town center. EPA is a pet-friendly hardware store, and Aliss is a pet-friendly department store. I’ll start a list of restaurants where they’d love you to bring your pet(s), so send me an email, and I’ll add them to the list:
Tied to the gate
Not until a few years ago Costa Ricans started to get a pet. Those treating their pet as part of the family are mainly younger generations. Or they have lived abroad in a country with a pet culture. Very few local families used to have their pets live inside the house. They would have their dogs tied to the gate for security.
That is because most have not grown up with pets as we did. I have had dogs all my life myself. When I got married, I already had a dog. I taught my wife, Nina, how to love and care for a pet. Now, she is the one who wants more and more pets. If I let her, we would have 20 dogs running through the house.
Poop free neighborhood
Nina’s family members try to avoid the dogs when they visit. But, over the years, some have started to like them. But there is no way they would walk a dog, pick up the poop in a bag, and take the bag to the nearest garbage can.
You do not only need to love your pet to be able to do that. You also need to respect your neighbors enough to keep the neighborhood poop free, which is a big step.
We also buy toys and treats for our pets. The locals are now starting to get used to that, but it probably will take a whole generation to reach the level of pet culture that you will find in more developed countries.
We have dogs barking everywhere. And if one starts, the whole neighborhood will follow. We have a Pomeranian with delicate hearing, so motorbikes and noisy trucks bother him, so he barks. Our neighbors all have dogs, so when there’s thunder or fireworks, it’s a noisy neighborhood. If barking dogs bother you, get one yourself or look for a home at the bottom of the hill and not at the top.
I have never had to pay for a dog. All my dogs have been stray dogs, adopted, or gifts from people who didn’t want the pet they acquired. Most people don’t realize it, but there is a considerable need for pet foster homes. So if you are not bringing your own pet to Costa Rica, look at adoption before you pay for it.
Too many people buy a dog for their children when they are still small and cute. Then, they get fed up with the poor animal after a while. Or they find out that their pet is alone all day while they are at work. When they get home, there’s poop and pee all over the place. Or the neighbors complain about the dog barking all day long.
Dumping the dog
When fed up with the pet, some pet owners get the dog in the car, drive to another neighborhood, and dump the dog when nobody sees them. Max, our stray Collie, who passed away years ago, was always scared to death to get into a car. That’s because he thinks we’re going to dump him. He had lived on the streets for years, and we received him half-dead.
Cats and Birds
Usually, people don’t talk much about cats and stray cats. They’re there, believe me, all over the place. There are some areas where hundreds of cats become wild. If you like birds, first find out if having the bird you prefer is legal. We have Louis, who is a green parrot. Louis walked in one day about 15 years ago. He must have escaped, as he had his wings clipped. We built him a huge cage where he is very happy. But a few years ago, the government prohibited having birds in captivity. I asked the vet who attends to our pets, and she says to keep him where he is because he’s been in captivity too long and will not learn how to hunt for his own food. Nonetheless, before you buy a bird like ours from a local, make sure it’s legal to have one.
Don’t buy a pet
If you love dogs and cats and do not bring your own pet when relocating, there are many ways to get one. Don’t buy one at the vet’s or in the pet shop. There is a massive need for good homes for stray and mistreated dogs, but people who care.
Below, you’ll find a few links to help organizations. Some of these are happy with small donations, like ¢1,000 a month, so they can buy food and medicine for the strays they find while they look for a foster home for them. Some are in Spanish, but using Google Translate, I’m sure you’ll figure it out.
- Territorio de Zaguates
- Adopciones Chonito
- Rescate Animal CR
- Asociacion Defensa Animal
- McKee Jaco beach
- Animal Shelter Costa Rica in Heredia
- Adoption of needed Pets
With all the hundreds of expats we have moving to Costa Rica, I am sure some of you will find a way to help some of these organizations. And please check them out before you buy a pet. Thank you!
Blogs like this about pet culture are important for your learning curve. I hope they’re helpful.
Are you planning to bring your dog with you? Then, ask your Godutch agent for advice. Adopting a stray dog is also a great idea. Also, check out the pet cremation services banner below.
Image by zinkevych on Freepik