By Lisa Kava
Upper West Sider Jane Moskowitz has been hard at work rescuing stray dogs from the dreaded “Kill Cage” on the island of Aruba — a place where dogs are inhumanely euthanized to prevent overpopulation. Moskowitz ultimately places them in loving homes here in New York City, and is currently looking for adopters.
Some of the pups now available for adoption are pictured throughout this story.
A former elementary-school-teacher-turned reading-and-writing tutor, Jane, along with her husband Jeremy, founded Cunucu Dog Rescue in 2018. Cunucu is a term for the dogs who live on the island, Jane told West Side Rag in a zoom interview. We call them ‘beautiful mutts.’ On average they are medium size, smart, active, and in need of daily exercise and training. They are great family pups when their needs are met.”
Jane, who was born and raised on the Upper West Side, returned to the neighborhood with Jeremy a few years after graduating from college. Jeremy grew up in the Boston suburbs, but his family has long-standing ties to the island of Aruba and frequently traveled there. Upon visiting Aruba with Jeremy’s family, Jane quickly fell in love with the island — its people and its beauty — but immediately noticed a problem that was impossible to overlook.
Aruba is filled with 20,000-40,000 stray dogs at any given time, Jane told the Rag. “You see stray dogs on the road or on the beach within five minutes of being there.” The dogs are not spayed or neutered so the problem continues to escalate.
The “Kill Cage” was recently renamed by the Aruban government Centro di Control di Cacho (CCC), Jane explained. Dogs are either picked up off the street and brought to the CCC or turned in by owners who no longer want them.
“The CCC is the government’s solution to controlling the overpopulation of unwanted dogs on the island,” Jane said. “Dogs are treated cruelly and killed for no reason. If someone brings a dog to the CCC, its fate is decided by members of the government’s veterinary services. If a dog is barking too much, then he or she will almost certainly be killed on the spot. If a dog is clearly ill, then they, too, will be euthanized immediately. There are no laws against animal cruelty.”
Jane and Jeremy, dog lovers, and owners of a seven-year-old dog, had already been fostering dogs from a New York-based rescue organization, where Jane volunteered. The couple felt a strong urge to help the dogs in Aruba. “We have a personal connection to this island where my husband and his entire family have been going since he was born. We feel passionately about helping,” Jane said.
The couple’s first Cunucu rescue was a dog named Hazel who they brought back to New York, fostered, and placed in a permanent home. Jane and Jeremy went on to foster three more Cunucus, finding homes for each one. Jane then contacted shelters and rescue organizations in Aruba to see how she could help more. Through her outreach, she met Jacqueline Boderie, President of Crijojo Trappers, a trap-and-release organization whose goal is to spay and neuter as many dogs as they can. “They are amazing. They are out there on the ground trying to solve this problem,” Jane said. Boderie introduced her to dog-rescue advocates in Aruba, and Jane, in turn, established relationships with people on the island willing to foster.
Jane now partners with Boderie in rescue efforts. Boderie, who regularly visits the Kill Cage, will call Jane, to tell her about specific dogs at risk. Jane then arranges for those dogs to be fostered in Aruba, while searching for a permanent home for them in New York. Rescued dogs remain in their foster home until they receive all age-appropriate vaccinations, and are medically approved for travel by a vet. Flight volunteers then fly the dogs from Aruba to New York, where their adoptive family meets them at the airport.
All potential adopters are interviewed and reference-checked by Jane. Once an adopter is approved, Jane sets up a virtual “meet and greet” with the foster family, where the adopter can ask the foster questions, and see their dog in action.
Since its inception, Cunucu Dog Rescue has placed 150 dogs from Aruba into permanent homes. Jane keeps in touch with her adopters, and loves hearing their “happily ever after” stories. But she is also aware that much more change needs to happen. “We’re putting a tiny band aid on a big problem. It’s simply not possible to save every dog. The answer must be: mandated spay/neuter, and animal anti-cruelty laws that are implemented effectively.”
If you are interested in adopting from Cunucu Dog Rescue, you can fill out an application at www.cunucudogrescue.com. For the most up-to-date information on available dogs, follow Cunucu Dog Rescue on Instagram @cunucudogrescue. Jane is eager to meet more adopters who are devoted to giving these dogs permanent homes. “I am looking for incredible families who are not just looking to add a cute puppy, but who understand what it means to have a dog.”