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Dogs and cats are a relatively new species in Galapagos. First introduced by buccaneers and early settlers, there are now thousands of dogs and cats living on all 5 islands inhabited by people. The biological diversity of Galapagos is particularly vulnerable to invasive species, including donkeys, pigs, goats, rats, dogs, and cats. In fact, along with population growth and tourism, invasive species are the primary threat to the native terrestrial biodiversity of Galapagos.
Threat to Native Wildlife
Although dogs and cats are loving companions, when left to roam free they harass and prey native wildlife, which has evolved without any natural predators and as a result possesses no defenses against them. Marine and land iguanas, young land tortoises and birds are all in danger of being killed by a hungry dog or cat.
Numbers of Dogs and Cats
It's difficult to count exactly how many dogs and cats live on each of the five islands inhabited by people but authorities estimate numbers to be in the thousands.
Smuggling of Purebred Puppies
A burgeoning problem in Galapagos is a black market in purebred puppies from Ecuador. Although it’s illegal to transport any live animals into the islands, enforcement is lacking and new purebreds are smuggled into the islands daily. Galapagos cannot support any invasive animals and bringing more dogs to the islands only puts further strain on the sensitive ecosystem.
A Human Problem
Dogs and cats didn't choose to come to Galapagos, they were brought there by humans. GPS does not assign blame to the dogs and cats, nor do we condone the lethal "management" programs of dogs and cats carried out by other NGO's on the islands. If people choose to keep pets, it is their responsibility to sterilize, feed, care for their animals and keep them off the streets and away from wildlife.
A Multifaceted Solution to a Complex Problem
The problem of dogs and cats in Galapagos is a complicated one that will only be solved through a multifaceted approach. All dogs and cats on the islands must be sterilized, family pets must not be allowed to roam freely, homeless animals need to be humanely removed from the streets and re-homed and the illegal importation of purebred dogs. We work in conjunction with Animal Balance a group that provides free mass sterilization services as well as Darwin Animal Doctors, a group that is working to place permanent veterinarians on each island.