I remember writing an article some years ago to draw attention to the cruel treatment of dogs in Spain. With the exception of a few Spaniards and some dedicated vets, animal welfare is not a priority in Spain. Abandoned animals that litter the towns and countryside, the frequent roadkills that appear every few kilometres along the Spanish carreteras are clear evidence of this.
With the exception of charitable organisations like ADANA in Estepona, run by volunteers, unfortunately there is no dedicated organisation to which one can turn to for help or for reporting cases to, such as the RSPCA in the UK.
The nearest organisation available that does include the protection of pets and prevention of cruelty to animals is SEPRONA, a branch of the Guardia Civil that deals with the environment and animal abuse and reports when prosecution is needed. Although some of the reports are shocking, the section of the code relating to Â“cruelty to domestic animalsÂ” is vague. Each region in Spain has its own local legislation when it comes to animal protection and while most reported cases come to nothing, the police themselves consider it a waste of time to pursue. For example the cases like the one in Tarragona where 15 dogs were horribly mutilated and left to die and there were no prosecutions.
This type of dreadful abuse is by no means exceptional in Spain and only a strong law and its implementation could make people think twice before committing sadistic acts against defenceless animals. Hunting dogs are the most abused, many are strays and lead a very poor life. They are kept chained up day and night or caged in tight cages and only released for hunting. Most of the hunters only go out at the weekend. The dogs are let out to run in packs and chase anything that moves: wild boar, rabbits, birds... So long as it moves, it is indiscriminately shot. Very often at the end of the season or when the dogs are ill or are finished with, they are dumped and left to fend for themselves or die.
Most of the complaints made about cruelty to animals come from British organisations both in the UK and here in Spain. Britain is world famous for its love of animals and its animal protection law and enforcement, so why is it that it is the British expatriates who are dumping their dogs by the side of motorways or leaving them to starve in boarded-up villas as the credit crunch forces them to abandon their Spanish dream?
An article by Fiona Govan in Estepona reports that Â“Rescue centres along the Costa del Sol report that their intake of animals has almost doubled in the last year, leaving them full to overflowing with some 1,000 abandoned dogs - and are unable to care for any more. Although it is not always possible to be certain who owned the abandoned dogs, these figures and the experiences of animal welfare workers suggest that scores of Britons, defeated by the credit crunch, have simply flown home and left their dogs to fend for themselves in SpainÂ”.
Â“ItÂ’s incredible,Â” Maria Stevens, kennel manager at the Adana animal rescue centre is reported to say. Â“People find the time to pack up their furniture and other belongings and yet their petsÂ’ welfare is an afterthought.Â” Among the worst cases encountered were pets left tied to balconies or released at popular nature spots in the vague hope that a dog walker might find them and take them in.
Perhaps FAACE, based in the UK would take notice of this and add a section to their website with more relevance than objecting to bullfighting and to Spanish hunting dogs.
Of course I do realise that the archaic and obstructive legislation for taking dogs into the UK is more than one can deal with when struck by serious adversities, nevertheless there should be more responsibility and care shown for our most loyal friends. Even taking the trouble to have them humanly put down would be more charitable than death by starvation.
Spain needs an organisation like the RSPCA and with the same powers. Spanish or otherwise, all perpetrators of cruelty to dogs and pets should be identified and prosecuted in Spain or in their own country by such organisations. In any case, people should think twice before taking dogs into their family and pet owners should be educated and encouraged to sterilize their pets.
Shelters are overcrowded and the animals live in conditiones worse than concentration camps. What is this world coming to? Can we please show a little human kindness to our friends who never ask for anything in return for their love and total loyalty?