A guest post by Eddie Cowling.
Amongst the undeniable beauty and magnificence of Andalucía, is an increasingly disturbing sight across the campos and costas of the region and indeed across the country. Abandoned dogs and puppies wandering the streets or countryside in search of survival is becoming a common picture for locals and tourists alike.
Still relatively under the radar, and perhaps inevitably underreported and under-researched in a nation desperate to retain appeal in such difficult economic times, this worrying trend, itself partly a by-product of the current financial crisis, as well as an accepted habit, is however finally being picked up by the British media.
Two major factors are contributing to the abandoned dog problem. Firstly, the Spanish tradition of breeding hunting dogs (galgos). Galgos live their entire life on the brink of starvation, unstimulated, in small, dark spaces or tied to short chains. They have hardly any human contact, get little or no affection and are kept purely for the hunting season and then are often abandoned without thought once the season comes to an end. Often a new, fresher batch of dogs will be purchased by the hunter when the season returns the following year.
Secondly, and perhaps a more concerning trend considering the impact in urban areas, is that due to the economic crisis here in Spain, many pet owners, both native but also expatriates, can no longer afford to keep their dogs (particularly the so-called dog-loving Brits as they pack their bags and return home).
Furthermore, due to the costs involved, it is becoming more and more common for owners to not even consider neutering their dogs, meaning additional unwanted puppies, who will also have to be disposed of some way or another once they are born. Of course before the final act of abandonment, there is also the long period of neglect and malnourishment that the creature must endure.
The local response
The concerning trend does however bring out the best of many locals and expatriates, as compassionate folk take in dogs found abandoned in the local area. Many households particularly in the more remote areas of Andalucía now house previously unwanted dogs, nursing them back to full health (often incurring hefty costs in the process), eliminating flea and tick problems and integrating them into their family.
The empathy and willingness of locals to take the dogs in and look after them is a blessing as official dog refuges appear increasingly permanently full and unable to accept newly-found dogs.
Most dog refuges in the region now strive to make it extremely clear on their websites that they are at capacity, and any new dogs brought in will not be accepted and if left, will have to be put down. Without extra resources for such charitable organisations, and unless there is a considerable attitude shift from the Spanish people, this worrying trend will continue and many more dogs will be lost.
The dogs’ story
These two very young puppies were found abandoned by some bins in Torrox, covered in ticks and fleas. Fortunately, a local lady who has already taken in more than a dozen abandoned dogs, agreed to take in this pair too.
Luna, who is completely deaf, was abandoned when she was a puppy; luckily she was taken in by a local family. The family saved her, but she still spends her days and nights chained to a tree in the open air.
But these are just two examples out of countless more. There are a number of dedicated charities aiming to find homes for abandoned dogs in Spain, Spanish Stray Dogs.org searches for people willing to take in dogs across Spain, whilst Animals in Distress is located in the Andalucía region. See their websites to find out more.
**Eddie is a talented friend, colleague and photographer whose travels, among other things, have inspired him to document the world and its people in his images. Eddie has spent a considerable amount of time travelling with his partner to many different places in the world and together the lost dogs of Andalucia have captured their attention and touched their hearts. All travellers know that there is a sad story in any place we visit. Despite his love and passion for the beauty of the region he currently calls home, Eddie felt compelled to write about this topic to raise awareness for these dogs, who cannot help themselves. To see more of Eddie’s photography, visit www.eddiecowlingphotography.com