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Over 550 Dogs and 100 Cats in One House

More than 550 dogs and 100 cats have been housed for the past three years on a small residential property on Merced Hill in the Chilean coastal city of Valparaíso. Neighbors have complained incessantly about the putrid smells and unsanitary conditions that impact the surrounding residential area.

Marina González Becker, an English professor at a local university, and Estratia Gambrulis, an attorney, are the owners of the residential animal shelter. Both are strongly opposed to euthanizing the animals unless it is absolutely justified. "We believe education and sterilization of the animals is the proper way of dealing with the situation," González said.

Valparaíso, the principal port city in Chile, is infamous for the number of stray dogs living on its streets. González and Gambrulis accept almost any animal that comes off the street, and city dwellers often tie dogs to posts outside the womens' property, knowing the dogs will be welcomed to a new home inside the residence.

González said she once found eight dogs died up outside the shelter, awaiting adoption.

González and Gambrulis also are the principal financiers of this residential animal shelter, which they named La Protectora de Animales (The Protector of Animals). The two have spent thousands of dollars and months of work to give the animals a home. Still, the conditions are horrid due to a lack of finances to move the shelter to another, larger location.

González said it takes CP$6 million (US$12,000) each month to "maintain property in good conditions," with three paid employees who care for the animals around the clock and provide sufficient food.

The unhappy neighbors surrounding the property - and González herself - have urged the city to come up with a better solution. "For more than three years we have pleaded with municipal authorities and the health department to deal with the problem," neighbors told The Valparaíso Times.

"Local health authorities could go to jail for not complying with a Supreme Court resolution that ordered the elimination of the shelter," they said. "In a real democracy, the first mission of the authorities is to resolve citizens' problems and not waste time doing it."

Six years ago the city offered to build a new shelter facility, but it has taken more than five years to start the construction. The new facility is now completed, but the city has not provided sufficient operational funds to keep it running.

Local construction company Puerto Principal built the new shelter, with Juan Pablo Almazorsa in charge of the project.

An on-site construction manager, who wished to remain anonymous, estimated the shelter will cost thousands of U.S. dollars per day to run.

"It's great the dogs have a new home to move into, but it will take millions of pesos (thousands of U.S. dollars) per day just to feed and water the facility filled at capacity with animals," he said. "It's new, modern and big, but it will be extremely expensive to maintain, and I'm afraid there is not enough funding for this facility."

The facility – once opened – will be the largest public animal shelter in South America, legally housing 700 animals. Still, this may not be sufficient to keep up with the ever increasing numbers of stray dogs needing shelter.

The owners hope to move the animals into the new facility in Laguna Verde, south of Valparaiso, by December.

By Wes Kimbell,

Photos by Gardner Hamilton (

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Added: Nov-27-2008 
By: WesKimbell
Tags: dogs, cats, puppies, kittens, obama, cnn, rescue, shelter, valparaiso, vina del mar, chile
Location: Valparaso, Valparaiso, Chile (load item map)
Views: 12712 | Comments: 15 | Votes: 2 | Favorites: 0 | Shared: 1 | Updates: 0 | Times used in channels: 1
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