Mara’s Story

Mara Mara's story represents tens of thousands of hunting dogs that are killed and abandoned every year. I first saw a photo of Mara on Facebook, when a mass rescue […]


Mara before she was rescued

Mara's story represents tens of thousands of hunting dogs that are killed and abandoned every year.

I first saw a photo of Mara on Facebook, when a mass rescue was taking place in March 2012. Just one example of a mass abandonment and hoarding of one hundred and twenty dogs, that was brought to attention - there are many more situations like this that will never be discovered because of the size of Spain and the vast Spanish countryside, a hidden cruel secret that the hunters keep from the public eye.

Maybe Mara’s story could also be an example to these hunters, of how these beautiful and intelligent dogs could continue to serve them, if treated properly. We need to get to the root of the problem and find out why this cruelty continues. Mara represents all of these dogs, with her harrowing story. She, like so many others, that have been treated like a piece of garbage, left to die in the middle of nowhere in the harsh Spanish weather with nowhere to lie, no comfort from the sores on her poor skinny body, no food, water, or hope. Shown not an ounce of kindness or compassion, these poor sentient creatures have done nothing more than to try to serve their master.

Many of us do not support hunting of any kind but unfortunately we have to respect that the hunters will continue with this, as it is part of the culture here. However, it is nothing to do with culture when their dogs are hung, burnt, abandoned to starve, thrown down wells, mutilated and even thrown in bins, their owners being the ones to perpetrate this barbaric and cruel torture, to the dogs who have served them through the hunting season. The practice of dumping, or killing those dogs at the end of the season has some very nasty twists and turns that many people don't know about, unless involved directly. Mara wants the world to know, so we can try to alleviate the numbers of dogs that end up in this terrible situation. If we can convince the hunters of the worth of these animals, then surely they will see a better way.

Mara was left with a man, an animal hoarder. His likely motive was to let the dogs mate with each other and sell the puppies on to the hunters in the new hunting season. Many dogs were left in an enclosure, to mate indiscriminately but some like Mara chained up under a tree and left with no hope.

When the rescue took place there were many photos of the dogs and it was well publicised on Facebook where many volunteers do so much to help. Many of these supporters are not in Spain and cannot physically help. In spite of that, they offer a great moral support to the rescuers in a situation such as this, and the many other situations that are reported daily. One hundred and twenty dogs is an unbelievable amount to save all at once. Luckily many Associations came to help in this particular situation but for each of those Associations, the cost to save the dogs was heavy, with limited funds already because of the constant necessity to rescue. This is an exhausting time for the rescuers, as abandoned animals have reached crisis point and end of hunting season is the worst time of year, a time that every animal rescuer dreads. An average dog that has no illness to treat, would cost in the region of 300 Euros for blood tests, vaccinations, passport chip and sterilisation, that is without the treatment of the animals that do have illnesses when rescued. The problem is insurmountable and so it has to STOP, it cannot continue like this.

We want the hunters to face up to the terrible situation they are causing and the government to look seriously at this massive problem, (as yet they do not, and they even tell us there is not enough evidence)! How can a government allow these crimes to continue? How can they allow the many Animal Associations working as volunteers and desperate to make changes, to continue to suffer like this? It is a catastrophe! As mentioned the one hundred and twenty dogs here, along with Mara, are just one of many that we know of and one of thousands that we will never know of. It is a holocaust!

People supporting on Facebook from far and wide, outside of Spain had noticed poor Mara’s plight, there was something about her face that told of suffering and she was one of many that needed to be got out urgently. Mara had got into people’s hearts!! We had thought that she had been saved but when I arrived at the scene she was the first dog I saw. There were practicalities and in order to successfully save the dogs we had gone to rescue, there was no way we could take Mara.    A call from a volunteer from another Association, to see if they could save some dogs came through but they had no possibility of getting to the scene. I saw an opportunity for Mara to be helped and told them about her but we could not physically take her.

All day on top of the harrowing scenes and sadness, the compassion of the volunteers and everything else that happened that was so stressful, I could not rid myself of the thought of Mara and who could take her, how could we get her out? Then good news – the Association had managed to find some volunteers who drove there to help. When they arrived I tearfully led them to Mara, so thankful that they were able to get to the scene and take her, along with some other poor dogs too, who were so lucky that day. The volunteer gently put Mara on a lead and led her to shade where she was fed, watered and stroked, probably for the first time in her life. It was an emotional moment.

Mara unfortunately had some of the Mediterranean illnesses that many of the Spanish dogs get when they are left out and not cared for and she was really quite ill, though treatable. It was going to cost a lot to get her well.

The cost of the rescue of these dogs still affects the Associations involved and some are still in deficit from the amount needed to save them. The rescuing doesn’t stop on a day to day basis. We hope that this won’t affect future rescues.

If only we could prevent this so that no one has to go through this again and we can stop the dogs suffering. If we can encourage the hunters to understand how much could be saved financially, how good a sterilised and well looked after dog could work, then we will help the situation. We have to organise a campaign to teach these people and get through to them. Perhaps via the hunters who are already treating their hunting dogs better, but sadly they are in a minority!

The government needs to insist and implement sterilization, chipping and licensing hunting dogs. This would go a long way to teaching responsibility to the owners. If the vets could collaborate with this too, then there is no excuse for the hunters. The necessity for guidelines, laws and an organization to oversee and implement it would make a huge difference.

Mara was now with a wonderful rescue group - San Animal Santuario. They already were over full with other rescues but still took on more dogs from this rescue, including Mara. She looked so ill, her skin around her eyes was bald, she had lumps and sores and was painfully thin, and Mara had a long way to go to get to good health.

Today San Animal Santuario have twenty one dogs and many cats in their care, maybe more by the time I write this and they are struggling to raise funds. The non-profit organizations that are trying to help are in much need of help themselves. This is a ridiculous state of affairs in a country like Spain.

There are so many problems - an economic crisis and too much animal cruelty and abandonment cases here in Spain. There are no adequate laws, the ones there are apparently in place are not good enough, or even implemented; the government refuses to acknowledge the problem and people are afraid to report cases because of fear of retribution and animals suffering more, as a consequence of the police and authorities not taking the cases seriously.

Animals come to the bottom of the pile in any economic situation, but in Spain they are already in the bottom of the pile, recession or no recession.

So what can be done? We need a massive movement to correct this situation.

A lovely lady by the name of Fiona Nicholson was a member of my Facebook group and has rescued dogs from Spain before. Fiona was looking for a quiet and special dog to be part of her dog training business. A dog that would instill peace and confidence, in the other dogs. This was a special owner and Mara was a special dog, so I made the suggestion. Fiona made enquiries about Mara and felt she was the right kind of dog but it was going to be a long time before Mara would be well enough to travel. Her treatment was long and she needed lots of care and attention. Eventually 4 months later Mara was ready to travel to her new home.

Fiona Nicholson (Mara’s adopter)

Fiona sends us regular updates and photos and tells us that Mara is a very special dog and that one of Fiona’s favourite photos of Mara was the one with her running happily at San Animal with another dog, just a couple of weeks after she was rescued. Fiona remembers being so touched and gladdened at such an unbelievable change in so short a time, even though she was actually still quite ill. Here is a message from Fiona:-

Mara is a tremendously resilient, brave, determined wee girl. Everyone who meets her falls in love with her, she is so gentle and friendly and happy, so I often have the chance to tell her story and highlight the dreadful situation in Spain – many people are already partly aware and many ask about transport from Spain, so she is doing her bit to spread the word. I have even had two different people ask if she was up for re-homing, they love her so much. GSPs (Braco Aleman) are not common here. She watches me all the time except when she is off following scent trails – she is a marvellous tracker, and one of our games on walks is for me to walk in another direction when she isn’t looking, and go out of sight then she tracks me down. She gets so excited when she picks up my trail, and tears along going ‘yip, yip yip’ till she gets to me, then she sits and waits for a treat. She is also a fantastic guard dog, and barks loudly if anyone comes near the house, which is good, as the greyhounds/galgas are too lazy for that.

Mara is a treasure, and I can hardly believe that she didn’t have a string of offers of homes from San Animal, anyone would be so lucky to have a dog like her.

Best wishes,
Fiona xx

This is what Mara’s hunter/owner threw away. (Click an image to see the whole gallery.)

Could Mara and the many other beautiful and reformed hunting dogs, teach their ex owners something?