Dog in shelter
If you are looking for a bit of extra company for those long walks in the sun, why not consider adopting a dog? There are thousands of abandoned pets in Catalunya who desperately need homes although the decision to provide one should not be taken lightly. Adopting a dog is almost like taking on a new child and abandoned animals often have special requirements that need extra understanding and energy. But for most people who adopt, the rewards soon dispel any lingering doubts.
There are of course significant advantages to adopting rather than buying a puppy. “Most abandoned dogs are already house trained and don't require as much initial energy as a puppy since they've already matured and are not as hyperactive,” says Isabell Belva, president of a rescue shelter in the Ebre delta. “They are ideal for retirees or those without young children such as foreigners who have relocated here.”
The Fundación Affinity estimates that in 2005, around 96,500 dogs were abandoned in Spain. Andalucía accounted for the most with around 22,000 followed by 14,000 in Catalunya. The foundation stressed however that although these figures are high, the number is steadily decreasing every year. Nevertheless, the number of these dogs that have been absorbed by animal shelters is currently at an all time high. Until quite recently, most abandoned dogs in Catalunya wouldn’t have had much hope of surviving long once they had been rescued. If owners did not collect them within 10 days or a suitable home was not found quickly, they were put to sleep by lethal injection. To the delight of the animal right activists, this practice was illegalised in 2003. However, animal shelters are now more overloaded than ever before.
Two of the biggest dog homes in Barcelona are the Centre d'Acolliment d'Animals de Companyia (CAAC)-known more commonly as 'La Perrera'- and the Lliga Protectora d'Animals I Plantea de Barcelona. Belgian Chantal Rosa adopted Leo, a mongrel, from La Pererra in 2005 and says despite initial nerves, she has been delighted with the decision. “Leo was found tied to a tree at the entrance of La Pererra,” said Chantal. “I'd seen him on their website before going there and we eventually spotted him huddled up shivering at the back of his cage. The adoption process was less intimidating than I thought-I was worried it would be a big responsibility but in the end, I and everyone else loved him so much that I didn't worry about it anymore.”
As with many adoptions, the process was not without complications. “Leo was very depressed and quite aggressive at the beginning-he would only eat certain delicacies from out hands! He calmed down until he had his vasectomy after which he was a bit nasty again, but now he's a healthy and happy dog.”
Before people dash down to their local kennels, however, they should consider their long term future in Spain. “People move to Spain thinking it would be nice to have a dog but then six months later decide they miss home and end up either abandoning them or putting them in a home,” said Empuriabrava resident Charlotte Graham. “There are so many adverts put in the shop-windows here by people trying to offload their dogs before they go home.”
Graham advised people to take certain things into consideration before adopting a dog, “Obviously, you have to remember that the dog you adopt is probably going to be an adult and therefore have a considerably shorter life than a puppy. Also, bear in mind that you might find that certain things trigger the dogs’ memory in adverse ways.”
Nevertheless, Graham insists that the rewards outweigh such drawbacks. “The advantages are obviously that you've given a dog a badly needed home, it's a lot cheaper to adopt and if the home is a good one, it will have things like vaccinations, medical issues and probably an identity microchip already taken care of.”
One of the biggest worries that foreign owners may have when considering adopting is what to do with the animal if they go back to their home country. In the past, this would involve either giving up a pet or, in the UK, a painful and expensive 6 month ordeal in quarantine for the animal. Since 2000, however, European pets have been able to obtain passports that enable them to travel freely between borders with their owners. They only requirements are that the pet has a microchip, is vaccinated against rabies-both of which will probably have been taken care of by the shelter-and has a 'fitness-to-fly' certificate issued by a vet shortly before the flight. Owners usually have to pay an extra fee to the airline based on the weight of the animal which is placed in the cargo hold. However, bear in mind that many low-cost airlines do not accept pets on board –Easyjet and Ryanair being the most notable. British Airways, Thompson, Monarch and BMI are amongst those that do, as will most other major airlines. For those who prefer to leave them in Spain whilst they travel, they should contact their nearest kennels known as 'Residencias Para Animales de Compañia.' Peak periods (such as school holidays) are invariably fully booked so reserve well in advance. Costs usually start from around €5 per day depending on the size of the animal.
Despite the high number of dogs abandoned in Spain, animal lovers can take heart in the fact that Catalunya has consistently taken the firmest stance against cruelty to animals. It was the first region to introduce a law against animal cruelty in 1988 which raised fines to as much as €20,000 and was also the first to ban euthanasia as a means of animal control. In 2005, a significant victory was achieved by animal rights activists when Barcelona Council declared itself an “anti-bullfighting” city. Although it did not mean the spectacle was banned here, it indicates that Catalunya will continue to lead the way promoting a more humane attitude towards our four-legged friends.
First published in July 2006.
August 2010 update - where to find out more:
Know of another animal shelter in the Barcelona area? Let us know.