A shelter for hundreds of stray dogs in Costa Rica, which is drawing comparisons to the upcoming animated film Isle of Dogs — has been targeted in recent months by people who have been poisoning some of the innocent animals.
Territorio de Zaguates, which feeds, treats and tries to adopt out the dogs that live on its approximately 380 acres in Heredia, described the problems they are encountering in a Facebook post earlier this month.
“We are going through a very difficult time in Territorio de Zaguates,” the shelter (whose name reportedly roughly translates to “Land of Strays”) wrote on March 7.
“During the course of the last days, intruders have entered our property with the intention of hurting our dogs,” the post continued, noting that on March 3 someone came in the pre-dawn darkness and “poisoned” 16 dogs, killing nine.
“At the time, the trespassers were chased but they escaped,” the shelter wrote.
As of November, about 970 dogs lived at the shelter, according to National Geographic. In March, Smithsonian Magazine put that number at more than 1,000.
According to the Facebook post, on March 5, workers of the shelter chased off two men wearing ski masks and dark clothing,
“Unfortunately, they reached the road where an unmarked car was waiting for them,” the shelter wrote. “This time none of our dogs were hurt, but while in pursuit to catch those horrible people, one of our collaborators was injured when one of the intruders attacked him with a machete. Luckily it was only a superficial flesh wound and [the employee] is alright.”
According to the statement, “this is not the first time” this had happened.
The shelter wrote, “We know that there are people who don’t sympathize with our cause and want us to close this shelter at any cost. With this incident, we believe these heartless people are responsible for more than 60 mysterious deaths over the past months.
“We filed the report with the local police and we are waiting for them to catch these criminals.”
The circumstances of these incidents remains unclear and Costa Rican authorities did not respond to PEOPLE’s requests for comment.
The shelter has faced challenges in the past, including the financial burden of caring for so many animals — with their daily food requirements costing hundreds of dollars, according to National Geographic.
The magazines reported that dogs there have also previously died in ways that led shelter officials to believe it may have been the work of locals looking to acquire the land.
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However, Territorio de Zaguates wrote in its post, it will not be deterred from its mission.
“We have been working so hard to comply with the government regulations and in the middle of it, we suffer the loss of our precious dogs,” officials said in their March 7 Facebook post. “We urgently need to install in 8 hectares of pens, 36 security cameras, and lighting poles to help the surveillance and keep our beloved Territorians and brave collaborators safe. … We are still standing, still fighting, and still certain that our human tribe, who loves dogs as much as we do, supports us and believes in our work.
“We have been hit many times before, but in every case, we have bounced back stronger and more determined. We will not allow evil [to] prevail.”
Those who would like to financially support the dog sanctuary can do so online.