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4-legged immigrants 'paws' at shelter

| Thursday, May 10, 2012, 6:07 a.m.

A group of satos -- small street dogs from Puerto Rico -- play the day away Thursday in a back room at Action for Animals in Derry Township. The shelter gave the dogs a temporary home when they pups were evacuated in advance of Hurricane Ivan.

Blanqui has led a rough life, but the dark skies are finally beginning to clear up.

Back in Puerto Rico, his family dumped him in an industrial area -- leaving him to fend for himself against bigger dogs.

He roamed the streets, often begging tourists for food, until he was adopted by Save a Sato, an organization that adopts the small street dogs -- satos -- and works on finding homes for them in the mainland United States.

But the organization has no permanent structure, only some tarps and cages.

With Hurricane Ivan bearing down on Puerto Rico earlier this week, the satos were once again in danger.

On Wednesday, Save a Sato flew Blanqui and 16 other dogs to Pennsylvania. They're now at Action for Animals in Derry Township, just about ready to find new homes.

"If they survived the storm, they'd have been back on the streets again to suffer God knows what fate," said Elaine Gower, of Action for Animals.

Yesterday the satos played in a back room at the shelter, happy to have a place to stay and bowl full of food.

Tomorrow morning, they'll all be ready to go home with a loving family.

"They're all very friendly," Gower said. "Even the adults are surprisingly sociable."

The $75 cost for a dog covers shots, spaying or neutering and a microchip to help trace the dog back to Action for Animals if he or she gets lost.

Action for Animals already has received more than 175 calls about the dogs, so Gower doesn't expect them to be around for long.

The shelter is bringing in nine more satos today, and they should be ready for adoption sometime next week.

If demand keeps up, the Derry Township shelter could keep bringing in more puppies from Save a Sato.

Gower said Action for Animals is always happy to take in dogs the size of satos because there aren't many small strays around here, and it's easy to find homes for them.

As for Blanqui and his pack, it looks like they would have missed the worst of Ivan even if they stayed on the streets. The hurricane swung south and didn't do as much damage to Puerto Rico as expected.

"Even if they didn't get hit, they're still getting lucky," Gower said.

For information about adopting a sato, or another dog, call Action for Animals at 725-539-2544.

For more information about Save a Sato, visit the organizations Web site at www.saveasato.org.

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