If you visit a council pound in Spain, you will be shocked by the sight of hundreds of dogs fighting for space in small dark, humid cages. All looking at humans behind bars in desperation to get out, to be free.
Council pounds in Spain are built with the sole aim of keeping stray dogs out of the streets and away from people. There is no thought or care for the dog’s welfare and wellbeing. Most of the time just two members of staff with no animal care training are in charge of nearly 200 dogs. These are places where dogs go to languish, whilst waiting for the end of their lives.
Still, in spite of all this, these dogs show us every day that they long for a life with a human where they can get to go for walks, to sleep in warms safe beds, to play, and get to love and be loved.
Our charity is born out of a deep desire and commitment to change these dogs’ lives, and to ensure that they have a chance to leave the pound and live the life of pets as they deserve. We made a commitment to look out for the most vulnerable dogs and ensure that their cries do not go unheard.
We dedicate all our free time to ensure that these dogs have a happy ending. For some it will take us days of hard work and for some it will be months, but all of them will have their chance to have a home. No dog will be left behind.
Why helping dogs in Spain when so many dogs in the UK need help too?
Not all Spanish people are cruel to animals and like us some are working very hard to help, but culturally and institutionally, Spain is a country where animals are given little thought. The few people that want to help find a mountain of obstacles and few resources available to give these animals the dignity they deserve. In the UK, shelters put animal welfare first and although kennels are not where a dog should live, whilst they do, they are allowed to live without fear of being attacked by other dogs, attention is paid to their mental welfare, and veterinary care on hand when needed.
In Spanish Council Pounds, dogs are all placed together in cages without care or thought for the most vulnerable ones. Animals dying overnight is common but ignored. In the north of Spain, the dogs are often fed chicken carcases as their only source of nutrition. It bloats them causing many health issues. The pounds treat the dogs no better than vermin. This is not helped by the fact that dogs are seen just as tools to be discarded by their owners, most often hunters, when no further use can be found for them. Sadly, the number of dogs arriving to these horrid places continues to increase.
The latest survey carried out by the Affinity Dog Foundation in 2018-19 showed the number of dogs abandoned in Spain at around 104,688 dogs. The reality is that this number is much higher when you count the dogs that have not yet been collected from the streets or never made it to a pound alive. To make matters worse, since the end of the Covid-19 confinement in Spain, the number of dogs abandoned have increased by 25% .
What can we do?
In view of these worrying figures, charities like ours can only do one thing, and that is to simply work hard to find loving homes for these dogs in the UK, and fundraise so we can take the most vulnerable dogs out of the pounds into boarding kennels before they die mauled by other dogs, as well as providing much needed vet care. At the same time, we need to educate the public on dog welfare and encourage owners and adopters to learn about dog behaviour so they are better prepared to provide the dog with the care and stimulus needed to have a balanced and happy dog.
Will the situation in Spain change?
We need to believe it will and that the new generations will have a different attitude to animal care and welfare, but this is a very slow process and part of a long-term strategy. Responsible dog adoption needs to be promoted more, dogs need to be neutered, cruelty to dogs needs to be punished harshly and council shelters need to be managed by staff with qualifications in animal welfare and a deep love and passion for dogs. They need to do this in a setting where the dogs will be protected from the inclemency of weather and from each other. Some famous Spanish personalities are becoming vocal in their support for these dogs and we hope that the general population will follow too.
In the meantime, we can only work hard to alleviate the suffering of dogs currently in pounds by finding the loving homes they deserve and share the message that dogs are not just tools or things, but sentient beings that need to be treated with respect and dignity.
If we all work together, we believe we can all give the stray dogs of Spain the life and care they need and deserve.