Felix Wellschmied

Associate Professor, Universidad Carlos III de Madrid


Some protectoras in Spain:

According to surveys from animal rescue organizations, more than 160,000 dogs are abandoned in Spain every year. Adults are often simply abandoned in fields or on the roadside where they suffer from severe health risks. The lucky ones end up in animal shelters, often arriving there with severe injuries, undernutrition, parasite infestation, and other marks of their past suffering. Puppies that are not wanted are regularly left in a bag and thrown into a trash can or a river to drown. Those found in time by neighbors or the police face a significant risk of being infected by the parvovirus which often leads to their death. If they reach an animal shelter, they often have to spend there years waiting for adoption.

Dogs used for the hunt, typically Galgos and Podencos, often face a particularly harsh fate. They are usually held in large groups, and some owners do away with those who are not among the fastest in the group or when the hunting season ends in February. The most cruel among them hang their dogs until they suffocate, throw them into wells to drown, or beat them to death. Obviously, cruelty against animals is also punishable in Spain. However, given the problems of enforcing such laws, there is little hope to get hold of the problem without regulating the breeding and rearing. In 2023, when Spain passed a new animal protection law that aimed at this issue, hunting dogs were excluded from the law a few months before its passing, hence there is little hope that the situation will improve in the near future.

How you can help:

If you think about having a dog (or cat), adopt it and do not buy one. I cannot think of a good reason not to do so. There are so many dogs abandoned that you can find any type: across all races, puppy or elderly, timid or brazen, cuddly or playful. Many people believe that shelter dogs are problematic and, thus, are only for experienced owners. While those dogs also exist, and if you want to adopt one this is great, the vast majority of shelter dogs behave just as one that you would buy, and people in the shelter know their dogs well and will advise you on the correct one for you. This is also true for people living outside Spain. If you adopt a dog in countries like Denmark, France, Germany, or the Netherlands, the dog may well come from Spain or other countries facing similar challenges. Moreover, there exist several associations that have a particular focus on rescuing Galgos from Spain like Galgo SOS (Denmark), Galgo Hilfe (Germany), or Galgo Project (Netherlands).

If you are not sure yet whether you want to adopt or if you have time in the near future but not necessarily long term, you can also foster a dog (in or outside of Spain). Some animal shelters even provide you with food, they just look for loving people to get the dog out of the shelter (and open a space for a dog who is still on the street).

Help out in an animal shelter. This can be in one from the government (perrera), or one of the many voluntary associations (protectoras). Many of these associations are large with hundreds of dogs and taking care of them, cleaning their boxes, and walking them takes a tremendous amount of time. You have people in these associations dedicating most of their lives to the well-being of those who they protect, and they can use all the help they can get. Obviously, you can also donate financially, for example, by being a padrino for a particular dog.

Raise political awareness. I am convinced that a majority of people are against the status quo. It is a typical problem well-known in political economy: Special interest groups use their political power while the majority of people are not aware of the dire situation.