Animal Rescue: El Llanito Edition

On World Animal Day, we meet the people behind SOS Animal, the El Llanito NGO looking out for the very most forgotten victims of Venezuela’s crisis.

Photos by Gabriel Méndez

The wrinkles and white hair of Patricia Goeta reveal her 61 years, devoted to her three passions: her family, architecture, and animals.

“You have to be born with that, it’s something that goes with the persona, that love for animals,” she said as we are inside the office of SOS Animal, the NGO she coordinates.

“My work is to make sure that everything is going OK, that the dogs are healthy and that they’re receiving all the care they need”, she’s telling me as she’s interrupted: a donation was arriving, seven packs of dog food from Fundación Polar.

“I’m sorry, I have to organize that,” she says, adding “I’ll be back.”

In a little house in the working class Eastern Caracas neighborhood of El Llanito, Patricia is joined by two doctors, one who works five days a week, and another who only works on Thursdays. They also have two people in charge of cleaning and six volunteers.

“I decided to start coming here here because I get two days off,”  Mrs. Carmen, one of the volunteers told me. “I’m a secretary, but instead of staying at home I can help with the cleaning here. I live in Caricuao. The first time I came, I threw up; the smell was so terrible. But with the help of the guys, we’re cleaning everything, look how neat everything is now,” she says with pride.

“I have a Pitbull at home and he’s my baby. Being here I can help and learn to take care of my dog. I believe if someone can’t love a dog, that person can’t love anyone.”

She’s a blonde lady and is wearing a cleaning uniform and gloves while she cleans and pets all the dogs in the place. “I have to go. I’m here until 12 and I want to make sure I finish everything”, she said, before we said our goodbyes.

We don’t put any dog to sleep that’s why we are overcrowded.

Patricia, the director, never seems to stop. She goes to visit one dog in the back of the house and talk with the vet. From Monday to Friday she takes public transportation from Guatire to El Llanito and sometimes she works on Saturday and Sunday. Since 2010, she’s divided her time between some remodeling work and SOS Animal.

“My father was a dog trainer and a huge animal lover, so I was raised with all that love and my kids too,” she tells me. She shows me a picture of her son, a 25-year-old. “See, that’s his dog and look what he wrote: ‘with the love of my life’,” she told me with a smile.

As we’re talking, the dogs start to bark: the volunteers are in the kennels, cleaning.

The little house is divided into three floors. On the first one they have two huge kennels, a small lobby and a surgery room that’s not currently working. On the second floor, in two big kennels, they have more dogs, and in the top floor, they have more dogs and four cats. In total, they have 92 dogs, although the place was built for 60.


This slideshow requires JavaScript.

“They’re all sorted by height and weight. It also depends on the behavior of the dogs. The street dogs don’t act like the dogs that are used to being in a house, with a family. We don’t put any dog to sleep that’s why we are overcrowded,” Patricia says.

In the last few years, she’s been witness to the increase in the number of the dogs abandoned at the door of the NGO.

“Some people just leave the dogs here, tied to the door. When someone asks for our help we encourage them to put the picture on Twitter, to see if a family wants to adopt their dog because we’re overcrowded and also because it’s traumatic for a dog to be thrown out of a home and sent here with so many animals,” Patricia said.

In the last few years, she’s been witness to the increase in the number of the dogs abandoned at the door of the NGO.

“There are lots of people who just leave their dogs behind because they are leaving the country and maybe they don’t even know where they’re going to live themselves. Well, that is no excuse, there’s no way to justify something like that. There are also people that can’t afford to have a dog, the food is expensive, the medicines. But, our capacity is limited,” she tells me.

The NGO also makes sure that any family who adopts a dog can take care of the animal they make them sign a commitment letter, the organization keeps an eye on them and if they are not able to provide the right care of the dog, the animal will return to the shelter.

Meanwhile, the people at SOS Animal don’t forget to show some love to the ones that are still there: “Everyone one of them has a name. The one that’s spent more time here is Maya, she was left in a park with some food and water, she has been here for five years. My favorite is Caramelo, he arrived here last year and I’m his favorite too, he’s so sweet, un amor.

Patricia doesn’t stop dreaming about the future of the organization: “I dream of a big space. I even draw the space. There was a huge area close to Cementerio del Este that was perfect, we talked with people at the mayor’s office but nothing came of it. Still, my dream is a big open space, where the dogs can run and get some sun. I hope to see that someday.”

If you want to help SOS Animal:

Address: Calle Terepaima, Caracas, Distrito Metropolitano de Caracas

Phone: +582122575734

Mail: [email protected]

Gaby J. Miller

Gaby is a Caraqueña steeped in 90's pop culture who likes to talk and write politics.