Save a Friend began as a result of the efforts of Dr. Henry White, a veterinarian practicing in the Toronto area, and Claudia Bohorquez. A group of committed local adopters formed this small-scale rescue to help bring other deserving dogs to Canada, to promote animal welfare more generally, and to support the efforts of Salva un Amigo in Colombia.
Here is their story in Claudia's words:
Henry and I came to Canada 14 years ago from Bogotá, Colombia with 5 suitcases and 4 dogs. About 5 years ago, we lost our beloved Batik to cancer, one of the dogs we had brought with us who lived to be 16. We looked through the many pictures of pets in shelters and rescues in Ontario without finding "the connection.” One day, through Facebook, we saw a little 3-month-old street mutt that we could not say no to; he had been saved from certain death on the streets in Bogotá and was looking for a home. It was then we decided that no matter what, we would bring him to Canada to our home and our lives. And that is how it got started...Over the last 3 years, over 50 Colombian stray dogs, or as we call them in my home country “criollito” dogs, have found their way into Canadian homes and hearts. We keep in contact with all of the families.
The group we support in Colombia is directly involved with the Bogotá city pound (there is only 1 pound in a city of 8 million people) and many healthy and adoptable dogs get euthanized every Tuesday and Thursday. While they are there, they are poorly fed and sheltered, and there is little investment in caring for dogs, as the majority will be euthanized anyway. The waiting period for a dog picked up by the pound is sometimes only 48 hours -- pregnant and sick dogs are among the first to be euthanized.
In 2008, before Salva Un Amigo was created, only about 130 animals were adopted from the pound; with the group's promotion campaign to adopt and not to buy dogs from pet stores, an amazing 1,300+ animals were adopted in 2013 and approximately 300 were saved by foster families. The numbers continue to grow and people in Colombia are slowly learning about the adoption mentality, but the vast majority of people still prefer to pay thousands for a so-called "purebred dog," when they could (quite literally) pick up an equally gorgeous and amazing dog from the street for free.
We incorporated as a not-for-profit in Ontario in 2014. Our Canadian volunteers know that we cannot save all of these dogs and find them loving homes in Canada – that's not our objective – but every life saved makes a difference. We actively promote responsible adoption of dogs in our care to loving Colombian families. And our Canadian success stories serve as an example: they are ambassadors for responsible pet ownership and the local "adopt, don't buy" movement in Colombia -- and living proof that these animals are not disposable – it is possible to adopt a stray, save a friend, and live happily ever after!
Many volunteers fight daily for these dogs and their right to live and be loved. Hopefully, the statistics will change one day. All we can do in the meantime is share our story, and keep saving one dog at a time.
Clickhereto see the team in action, saving a dog that nobody wanted, and follow his journey to Canada.