A mass rescue of 120 dogs in Spain

When I first started my interest in helping with animal welfare issues in Spain, I set up a Facebook group called Animal Welfare Support Murcia. I wanted to find out […]

When I first started my interest in helping with animal welfare issues in Spain, I set up a Facebook group called Animal Welfare Support Murcia. I wanted to find out if there were others like me who cared enough to do something about it. I also hoped to gain support and give support for the many necessary animal rescues.  Through this I learnt about the terrible tragedy of the 50,000 hunting dogs that are murdered and abandoned every year after the hunting season - these beautiful dogs Galgos (Spanish greyhounds), Podencos and many other hunting breeds are horribly treated throughout their poor lives and there are no laws in Spain to protect them.

Bullas Podenco

Poor little soul. Chained up with on a little bit of shade and shelter.

In my area we heard about one owner who kept 120 dogs in the most appalling conditions and one Association decided to do something about it - Pro-Setter in Spain; this Association decided to invite other charities and Associations along to see if they could help. This took much organising and intervention from the Police as the owner was still protected and had not been prosecuted.

This is going on all over Spain, this is not an isolated case. Unscrupulous owners are keeping dogs-en-masse in terrible conditions, allowing the dogs to starve or to suffer from disease and of course left in the open elements of a cold Spanish winter. Some are hung from trees, or burned alive or drowned. In this case they were hoarded together and fed once a week on dried bread and crisps.

This is my experience of the day I was involved in the rescue along with another organisation.

It was with a heavy heart that I found myself going along on the 9th March 2012 to the much publicised rescue in Bullas, Murcia. These unfortunate dogs are mainly hunting dogs; either dumped by the owners to these people, who either do not know how to take care of the dogs, or perhaps, as in the case of the Bullas situation, want to use the dogs to breed for next year’s hunters. Some hunters dispose of these dogs like unwanted garbage. Those of you that have never known a Galgo or a Podenco, these loving intelligent and gentle creatures do not deserve this. They have served their master and are now treated as though they were an unwanted and useless piece of machinery. The Bullas rescue was planned by an organisation called Pro-Setter, a legal battle ensued against the owner to get access to the dogs and access was allowed on a few prior arranged days, when only registered organisations could go in and rescue these dogs. A lot of planning had to be made very quickly prior to the rescue, for the veterinary treatment, the travel, the tests and the inoculations and of course their foster care. It seemed impossible, with the worst season for abandonment situations in many years.

A rescuer attaches a collar and lead to Mara, a Bretton Spaniel and encourages her forward.

When we arrived we were shocked to see that the conditions these dogs were in. It was diabolical. There were many hoarded in one huge enclosure, some of them terrified, some of them barely able to stand; the stronger ones still wagged their tails and I swear I could see in their body language the relief when we arrived. Many were chained to trees with string so tight it cut into their necks. They had sores where they were so thin and had been lying on the cold ground. They were standing in their own waste, sick and urine, their poor legs were sore and some had mange. They had been fed occasionally on potato crisps and stale bread by their cruel owner. Once the volunteers were given access and were able to give them food their poor little tummies could barely cope with it.

It was lovely to see though, that as the day progressed many of the dogs were put on collars and leads and given love and strokes and their demeanor changed tremendously. The worst part of this day was that I knew the huge freshly dug holes in the ground were filled with the bodies of the poor creatures who did not survive; I didn’t dare look but photographic evidence was taken which I believe is very harrowing to see.

Bullas Podenco

Another beautiful Podenco rescued on the day.

A voluntary vet was on hand who chipped the dogs as the charities decided which they would take, they were passported and vaccinated for rabies. That part of it truly impressed me - it was all voluntary and paid for by contributions and charities. What a fantastic bunch of people. We have many dogs locally that need help too, so it makes it all the more harder, however this is an epidemic and we all need to help wherever we can. At the end of the day all dogs were rescued but I am sad to report that the owner has another site where the same thing is taking place.

The only thing we must do now is to try to fight, to make sure these people are not allowed to do this again. As for the Bullas situation, we still wait to hear the outcome of whether the owner is prosecuted, and sufficiently enough.

If the hunters cared for their dogs, if sterilisation and care for these hunting dogs was made legal and a hunter could only own a dog with that criteria, we may be somewhere towards resolving a little of Spain’s animal problems. There are many Spanish who care about this (I have met many of them now) and many of the organisations there were Spanish; this problem lies higher than just with the people.

I hope never to see anything like I saw on that day ever again.

First published on March 31st, 2012.  To find out more about some of the charities involved in this rescue please see our Charities and Associations page.

Another rescued Galgo and Mara getting cuddles from the rescuers.

Mara climbs the dunes

Mara has now been re-homed in Scotland with Fiona Nicholson who does a lot to help Spanish animals. Look at her now, a very happy ending for her!