May 3, 2022
Author: Nick Mordowanec
Brazilian priest is being lauded for his commitment to bringing stray dogs to his masses, introducing them to parishioners for potential adoption.
João Paulo Araujo Gomes, 51, has served in the Diocese of Caruaru since February 2013. According to a viral Reddit post, he “takes abandoned dogs off the streets, feeds them, bathes them, and then presents a dog to each mass to be adopted.”
Allegedly dozens of stray dogs have been adopted due to Gomes, according to a post in the “Made Me Smile” forum that has exceeded 108,000 upvotes.
Brazil is well-known for its colorful wildlife, and Brazilians have shown a love of animals.
According to a World Animal Protection report from March 2020, Brazil had approximately 106 companion animals as of the end of 2013—which was the fourth-highest such population worldwide at that time, and second when considering only dogs and cats.
In 2020, it was also estimated that Brazil had about 52.2 million dogs and 22.1 million cats, including a total population of approximately 30 million stray dogs and cats, according to World Animal Protection.
Stray animals drew attention around the time of the 2014 World Cup held in Brazil, due to Brazilian authorities reportedly removing and killing them. It led to the city of Rio removing about 900 strays from its streets the following year.
But it was years earlier, in 2008, when Sao Paulo became the first Brazilian state to enact a law banning the killing of stray dogs and cats as a population control practice.
By comparison, the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), citing 2019 data compiled by Shelter Animals Count, said approximately 6.3 million animals enter U.S. animal shelters annually—a decline from about 7.2 million in 2011. Of those 6.3 million animals, about 3.1 million are dogs and about 3.2 million are cats.
That includes about 920,000 shelter animals being euthanized annually, with cats composing about 530,000 of those euthanizations. The 920,000 figure is a major decrease from 2.6 million euthanizations in 2011.
About 4.1 million shelter animals are adopted each year—a split between dogs and cats —and about 810,000 animals entered as strays are returned to owners. Of those 810,000, more than 700,000 are dogs.
Gomes’ Facebook page features numerous posts about both dog and cat adoption, as well as photos of dogs sleeping on the “icy floor in the middle of the heat in Caruaru” during prayer services. Some photos also feature his own dogs sleeping in his bed.
“How often our love for animals is criticized as madness,” Gomes wrote in a February 26 Facebook post. “It’s unfortunately common to hear: it’s more important to like people. There is no love for animals that does not translate into love for others. Love will always be madness for hearts that only care about money, power and advantage. I’m really happy to be crazy about life anyway.”
Another post from earlier that month stated that Gomes prays “for the suffering animals, the fosters who rescue, the families who adopt.”
Redditors said Gomes’ actions of bringing dogs to the church in an effort to get them placed into stable homes were lessons of compassion, discipline and responsibility. Some said this would provide an incentive to go to mass every Sunday.
“All good (stray) dogs go to… this guy’s church,” one user said. “What a lovely man. This benefits the dogs and the community; a loyal four legged friend can help beat loneliness and a range of depression/anxiety related mental health problems. The activity of taking a dog for a walk helps you keep healthy and just having a pet can help heal a broken heart. And the dogs get the loving owners and families they deserve. I love this so much.”
“If this isn’t considered the Lord’s work, it should be!” another user said. “Bless you João Paulo Araujo Gomes, for giving these animals a chance to have a safe, healthy and fulfilling family life.”
Gomes’ known passion for animals extends beyond social media. He was featured in a season two episode of the Netflix series Dogs called The Protectors, which documented his work and inspired local grassroots groups to emulate his mission.
Newsweek reached out to Gomes and the diocese for comment.