We first met Raquel just after Actin was set up in 2012; we needed to learn about the problems in Spain for animals and how Actin could develop to help with this. Raquel was an active animal advocate and told us how and why Spain had such a problem with animal abuse and neglect. At that time she felt it could be 20 years before we see changes. Raquel lives in Murcia and was a lawyer in a practice. We developed a working relationship with her in order to make changes in Spain for animals.
Actin’s work with Raquel
As a primarily English Association It was hard for us to understand how people could so blatantly get away with animal abuse, we were not used to seeing such a level of neglect and the abusers being allowed to get away with it. In spite of Raquel’s 20 year prediction of changes, the changes have already started, although many will not see the effect of that change for some time yet. This has been down to immense hard work on Raquel’s part.
The first case
Actin initiated a case against an owner who had been seen killing his Mastin dog with a tree branch. The case in Malaga appeared to be watertight, with the abuser identified and the witness willing to stand in court. However the holes in the system, the lack of knowledge of laws by authorities and the ignorance, made it very difficult. Under pressure the witness eventually dropped the case. The attitude of the legal system regarding an owner killing his own dog was not only appalling but the abusive act seemed to be accepted by the authorities and they did not take it seriously.
Motivation for Raquel
In June 2013, with the Princesa case, the PPP female that Ayto de Murcia was going to kill, Raquel won and saved the dog from being killed. This motivated her and Raquel began to give her first lectures in Madrid, at fairs of protectors and similar events. She began to give talks to various groups. GAtoteca, the first cafeteria with cats in Madrid, then another about Cats in a conference in Madrid, and further ones about how to act against animal abuse in feline colonies, this was in the CONGRESS OF THE DEPUTIES.
The container dogs and other cases
During the years 2013 and 2014 Raquel supported herself through much unpaid and hard work to deliver the talks in many Spanish City’s. At the same time she was working on many cases of abuse. Some of these were for Actin Association; the container dogs and a pound in Murcia. We were all on a learning curve and in order for Actin to support this work, funding was necessary; court paperwork, travel for Raquel to Valencia, where the container was - and many other expenses were involved. At the time in order for funding it was deemed necessary to report publicly and ask for donations and support. In hindsight and through experience of what works and what doesn’t, we now know that keeping legal action under wraps works better for the system in Spain, however we were all on new ground. Other incidents include a well-documented abuse of hunting dogs in Bullas. The dogs were kept in horrific conditions and fed once a week on potato chips, many had got sick and died, or were starving. After 4 years of the Bullas abuse, Raquel finally got a good result. Most of these cases are still open; they take a lot of work, and can last 4-5 or even 6 years. A huge amount of paperwork, writing and investigating, talking to witnesses and fighting a system that barely exists, is necessary. Raquel has to work extremely hard to obtain a good result. With the shipping container dogs and these other incidents, Raquel observed that she had to work four times harder, than with an employment case, or traffic accident, or criminal, (the type of situations she had dealt with prior to becoming an animal welfare lawyer).
Why is it so hard?
It is mainly due to the judges, who are not accustomed to seeing these issues, and therefore in ignorance the cases get filed. Raquel had to always resort to work much more, make more extensive denunciations, because the Spanish system does not work. There are malfunctions, but in spite of that there are good laws, laws that allow one to do many things to stop abuse but they are unknown.
Of course, the laws can be hardened and that is another area she is working on, collaborating as legal adviser in different legislative reforms; ensuring that the education of authorities is carried out, throughout the whole of Spain.
The work of the animal welfare lawyer is very intense
Raquel has worked without rest since 2012. She intends to continue this, as it is not just a job but a passion and her work is making landmark changes for the future of animals in Spain. Raquel has given up a lucrative position as a general lawyer and chosen a most difficult path and despite suffering economically, mentally and physically and fighting her way through the system, she tells us she is, 'happy, very happy, because I am seeing real changes in Spain'. Everything is still to be done, the road is slow, but it is unstoppable, and I am very happy, very happy’.
There is a SOCIAL NEED IN SPAIN, the need to protect animals! To denounce is good, but that DENUNCIA, needs to be of a quality to ensure a good outcome. Raquel says, 'complaints do not prosper because the Spanish system does not work well, that is why there is so much mistreatment, so much neglect, but with training, we will change the real situation of the animals and everything will take a turn, as is already happening'.
We need support and more work in this area of animal welfare
Raquel says, 'My police students are my top fans, they are adorable, they are happy, they feel safe after doing my courses and now they just feel safe to make good complaints, rescue animals and even teach other co-workers. For me, all this is a dream; it is a luxury, to be part of the history of the change of animal protection in Spain’.
Let’s all be a part of this most important change and support Raquel.
One person cannot do this and there needs to be more lawyers working like Raquel, more understanding of how the system works. To help Raquel carry out this work you can become a member of Actin Association and support these courses and more training for people like her.
You can become a member of Actin to help us support Raquel in making these changes, run courses and training projects. Actin are also working in collaboration with Raquel on the PAES project and are organising a legal conference to create an action plan to help forward these changes. More information on the Conference can be found on the PAES website.