CODDA: Punta Arenas’ Animal Shelter

CODDA is Punta Arenas’ only animal shelter.  In this guest blog, our friend Bruce Willett explains what CODDA is, what it does, and how both locals and tourist can help make a difference.CODDA


By Bruce Willett


One of the things many tourists notice when arriving in Chile are the large quantity of homeless dogs, especially in Punta Arenas.  Maybe less noticeable are the many feral cats. I noted this immediately when first arriving in 1999.  It  may appear a little chaotic to have all these animals wandering around, and while people here are not outwardly cruel, they are often neglectful. Many of these animals in fact have or had owners, but are now abandoned and left to their own devices. In addition, when people move or tire of the grown puppy they acquired, they dump them on a street far from home or out in the country where many dogs don’t know how survive. This is the circumstance of the many un-spayed, pregnant dogs we often pick up on the streets or countryside.

The Chilean federal and local governments do not regularly provide animal control services.  In cases of a dangerous animals, the police will take action, and sometimes if an animal is injured or neglected, a caring Carabinero or city employee will help.  But in most cases these are left to individuals, kind-hearted veterinarians, and non-profit organizations.  The municipality and health department will do spay/neuter campaigns, and several small scale spay/neuter programs are financed by the government, but these are too small to make a difference. For many years, the over-population problem has been exhaustively discussed at all levels with no long term solution.


True, there are many concerned people who are privately assisting animals in need.  Additionally, in Punta Arenas we have a humane society operating with an animal shelter.  Commonly refered to as “La Protectora de Punta Arenas,” or, officially , “Corporación de Defensa de los Derechos de los Animales” (CODDA).  We are the southern-most animal shelter in the world, a legal Chilean non-profit, and run several programs along with our shelter. Education and a sterilization program are our two other priorities.  Our leader, Senora Elia Tagle, founded the organization in 1990 to stop the cruel and flagrant poisoning of street dogs in the early morning hours.  To curb the population, the local and federal health department used strychnine. From there the organization grew to spay/neuter animals and provide a shelter to house unwanted animals.

We are a very small organization with literally a handful of supporters and volunteers operating in a human population of 130,000 and a stray population as high as 15,000.  Though we perform a public service, we receive very little public funding.  Our work varies from sterilizations, low cost veterinary care, taking in unwanted stray animals, neglect cases, and more.  Though our operating budget is less then $US 20,000 a year, we are able to stretch this pretty far.  With this money we operate a shelter with somewhere between 50 – 140 dogs and 2 -15 cats.  Though we have problems with mud when it rains, most of our animals are not locked in cages.  Most run around free in several pens, playing and sometimes fighting.  Several of our furry friends have lived here many years.  They eat twice a day, either kibble or raw meat.

The cooperation of several veterinarians provides low cost medical services, discounted spay/neuter and dignified euthanasia.  With the help of the local police we can respond to cruelty and neglect cases.  In addition, we receive outdated and slightly spoiled meat, rice and pet food to feed our friends.  Our work also extends to several pilot education projects.  One provides education curriculum on the responsibility of pet ownership.  In the other, we host a group of high school students from local schools who are obligated to volunteer in order to graduate.

Sterilization is another under funded priority. Many people in Punta Arenas cannot afford to sterilize their pets. In a country where a normal low monthly salary can be as low as $450, the cost to spay a female dog runs about $40 – $60. Every year we work with the Municipality and local veterinarians to provide this service at low cost. We would like to greatly expand this program.


As a passing tourist is there anything you can do?  Yes, of course!

  • Help us with a donation!  Though we are never short of animals we are always short of funding, sometimes to the point of closing.  We receive very little public money.  You are welcome to call, email, visit or go to our Paypal account listed on our web site.
  • Make a visit to our shelter and see our work.  We are located on the outskirts of Punta Arenas on the road to the airport, km 9.5 on 9 North.  We are always looking for volunteers.  Help is always needed with cleaning, feeding, training, plumbing, carpentry, bringing in donations, publicity, and other tasks.
  • Make it known that animal neglect is an eyesore for tourism.  This region depends on tourism and the government has invested a lot of money to make tourists comfortable and happy.  This problem has never been correctly addressed because few tourists express concern. If more tourists speak up the politicians and population will take notice.  The local paper (La Prensa Austral), tourist offices – SERNATUR, Municipality, and your hostels are just a few places to bring this up.  We have been seeing an increase of letters to the editor on this subject.

If you see a case of neglect, please report it to the local Municipality or police.   It is against the law in Chile to intentionally abuse or neglect an animal.  If they don’t help, call or email us. If this is in Punta Arenas we can investigate.

We would like to collaborate with other organizations doing similar work!  Contact us if you are interested.

When you visit other parts of Chile or Argentina, check out the local la protectoras.  Actually, there are quite a few with programs and shelters.  Temuco, Valdivia and Villarica each have one. Santiago has a bunch.  A Google search will bring up many. This website lists a few:

For more info, contact:

Bruce Willett


Corporación de Defensa de los Derechos de los Animales (CODDA)

Phone: (56) (09) 77723319

Km 9.5, Ruta 9.5 Norte

Punta Arenas

FB : CODDA Magallanes,  Corporación de Defensa de los Derechos de los Animales

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