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Field Trip: Saga Humane Society

San Pedro, Ambergris Caye, Belize

San Pedro, Ambergris Caye, Belize

Stray dogs in Belize get help from the Saga Humane Society and its “barefoot vet,” Heather Stewart. LESLIE WOLFSON
The organization:
Founded in 1999, the Saga Humane Society ( was named for the dog of a veterinarian who once worked there. But now many locals simply call it “Fort Dog.” The island itself was Madonna’s inspiration for her tropical love song, “La Isla Bonita” (“I fell in love with San Pedro/Warm wind carried on the sea, he called to me …” Ah, the ’80s.)

Impetus for creating the organization: Madonna’s ditty failed to capture a less romantic aspect of San Pedro: Before 1999, the homeless animal population was controlled by regular strychnine poisonings. A public outcry spurred locals to find a more humane method of solving the problem. But poisoning is still occasionally used in extreme cases, such as when packs of feral dogs become dangerous. Saga and its supporters continue to entreat government officials to find a better solution.

Vital stats: The Saga Humane Society team includes a veterinarian, two other staff members, and two volunteers. Saga serves a human population of 15,000, excluding tourists. An estimated 5,000 homeless dogs and cats live on the island.

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