The Shame of Spain
Spain has one of the highest populations of neglected and abandoned dogs in Europe – estimated to be more than 1 million every year.
With few animal welfare laws, a powerful hunting fraternity and a culture which teaches that animals don’t have souls, it’s sadly the side of Spain that most tourists don’t see. Acts of cruelty against animals in Spain can only be punished with administrative sanctions: you could go to prison for stealing a phone, but not for mistreating an animal.
Many Spanish dogs end up in local ‘perreras’ (or killing stations). These are not like the rescue centres we would recognise in this country. While some are marginally better than others, perreras are generally little more than hell holes where dogs are crammed in, with no comforts and no special care for the old, the ill, the small or the weak. Re-homing is not promoted and the majority of dogs are euthanized within days of arrival. This is the fate of thousands each week.
For those dogs who manage to avoid the perreras, the prospects are little better. Strays are often poisoned, stoned, beaten, trapped in snares, hit by cars or simply left to starve.
There are two historic breeds of dog in Spain which suffer particularly horrific abuse – galgos and podencos. Traditionally used for hunting, these dogs are viewed as nothing more than disposable commodities. Their ‘training’ often involves being tied to the back of trucks and forced to run. If they drop, they are simply dragged along the ground. They spend their lives in damp, tiny, dirty crates or windowless shacks deprived of daylight, exercise and affection. They are typically fed only water and stale bread. At the end of the hunting season, a select few may be kept for breeding – the rest are abandoned or disposed of - typically by hanging, being burnt alive, thrown down wells, garrotted, beheaded, have legs broken or wooden wedges lodged in their mouth so they starve. The official estimate for abandoned galgos and podencos in Spain is around 70,000 each year – the unofficial, and probably more accurate number, is nearer ten times that.