X-ray of animal abandonment - Ethic : Ethic

Photography

Noemi del Val

To the south of Carabanchel, just before reaching the border with which the M-40 separates the Madrid district from the town of Leganés, is the Madrid Salud Animal Protection Center (CPA). Pavilions, buildings and sandy grounds are spread over an area of ​​more than 4,500 m². We are in the largest protector of the Community of Madrid, although it depends exclusively on the City Council. All those lost, abandoned or vagrant animals collected in the capital arrive here. Many do it to stay.

At the door, a worker carries a small brown water dog with blue eyes. «He has all the appearance of being lost; he will return home as soon as the owner is located », warns Sofía Ochoa, deputy veterinarian of the center. “And if they have abandoned it, in three days they will have adopted it,” she adds. However, the vast majority are not so lucky: about 80% of the dogs found in the facilities are of breeds classified as potentially dangerous and their crosses. “This classification means that they hardly have any adoptions,” says the expert.

A walk through the shillings where the animals are housed is enough to prove it. crosses of rottweiler, bulldog Y american stanford They come out to meet us. “This type of dogs so stigmatized They are the ones who abandon the most in urban areas and they are the ones who usually stay here permanently, ”explains the veterinarian. This reality is what has led the Government to put on the table a preliminary draft of the animal welfare law that proposes, among other things, to end the classification and assess the dangerousness of the animal individually. When we ask Ochoa about the new regulations, he shrugs. The proposal is still just that: a proposal.

Currently, the center has an occupancy rate of around 72% for dogs and 97% for cats, considerable figures (considering that on average there are around 200 places for dogs and one hundred for cats), but lower than the from previous years. “The number of animal admissions has plummeted for some time now,” suggests the expert. “However, 2020 was atypical in every way and we can’t compare it to anything,” Ochoa is quick to recall while stroking the belly of a pit bull terrier peeking through the bars.

In a quick review of the year marked by the start of the health crisis, Ochoa indicates that during the months of strictest confinement, in which the center continued its activity as an essential service, The number of animal collection notices fell radically. “The most remarkable thing is that we had to admit five animals of people who needed to go to the hospital and who did not have any close relatives to take care of them, but the animals stayed only a few days,” he says.

In 2020, 286,000 animals arrived at the Spanish protectors, 6% less than in 2019

When mobility restrictions were relaxed in June, the number of animals arriving at the center increased slightly, but, in general, the annual figure continued the downward trend. Specifically, 780 dogs and 1,716 cats entered in 2020, while in 2019 953 dogs and 2,492 cats entered. “In the pandemic, within the exceptional, we have only verified that there are less and less”emphasizes the veterinarian.

The data compiled by the Animal Protection Center of the Madrid City Council seem to coincide with the last Abandonment and adoption study published by the Affinity Foundation, which shows that in 2020 286,000 animals (162,000 dogs and 124,000 cats) arrived at the Spanish shelters, 6% less than in 2019. In addition, no relevant month-on-month increases are distinguished between the two years. And that’s not all: only 3% of the protectors said they perceived more abandonments than in 2019, while the bulk of the reception centers (57%) did not notice any change. Does that mean there were no more dropouts during the pandemic?

The truth is that the report does not refer to the exact number of abandoned animals, but to the total of those that enter the shelters, whether they are abandoned, lost, born on the street or transferred. However, in the absence of official figures, the conclusions of the Affinity Foundation –the only ones available, since the General Directorate for Animal Rights, a body dependent on the Ministry of Social Rights and the 2030 Agenda, points to the report as a source– they are the closest thing to a reality that could be much more worrying.

“We will never know exactly the number of abandoned animals but, at least, it is double that indicated by the study, because those run over or rescued by individuals are not counted,” explains Eva Fornieles, coordinator of the area of ​​​​domestic animals of the Foundation for Advice and Action in Defense of Animals (FAADA). The entity, which offers financial support to shelters and promotes respect for animals in different areas, also carried out its own national survey on the impact of the pandemic on shelters and found that, except for one specific area, there was no significant increase in dropout. A) Yes, that supposed wave of dropouts that occurred after confinement seems not to be reflected in the data officers available nor in the sources consulted for this report, who confess to knowing the existence of a report that was released after the pandemic and in which they did not participate.

“What many protectors have detected is an increase in requests by individuals who request directly or through social services that shelters take care of the animals because they can no longer afford it,” says Fornieles. And he adds: “It’s a growing phenomenon.”

This refers us to the reasons that lead someone to abandon an animal. According to the study by the Affinity Foundation, this has varied in recent years, and if before the main reason was the inability to take responsibility for unwanted litters, now it is economic difficulties. This is followed by behavioral problems of the animal and the end of the hunting period.

Economic difficulties have become the first reason for animal abandonment

Lorena Alonso has heard (a lot) about the latter, who four years ago founded together with a colleague Galgos de León, a non-profit association dedicated to the fostering and adoption of greyhounds, one of the types of dogs that more are used for hunting. «The protector of the province is in charge of abandoned animals, but not of the ceded dogs, so we decided to take care of those that galgueros and hunters no longer want», explains Alonso.

Only this year they have rescued 165 dogs, who have passed through foster homes or through the shelter with which they collaborate. Of these, only twenty were abandoned, while the rest have been donated by galgueros. The reasons offered by those who call are very varied: “There are those who tell us that he eats too much, that he is very affectionate, that he does not run well or that, since they have had new litters, they prefer to stay with the youngest ones.” Fortunately, 130 of the animals collected this year have already been adopted and 25 are in foster homes. Or, rather, in reception flats. Alonso explains the importance of the nuance: “One of the greatest stigmas that haunt greyhounds and that sometimes prevents their adoption is that people believe that since they are very athletic and fast they need a lot of exercise and live in a house with a garden, but the Greyhounds are, by nature, very lazy; They spend all day on the couch.

Stigmas are precisely one of the main adversaries of adoption. It is enough to remember the number of dogs that the Madrid Salud Animal Protection Center houses. However, more and more Spanish families decide to adopt an animal: in 2020, almost 50% of dogs and about 43% of cats taken in by the centers were adopted. A positive inertia that for the protectors seems not to have enough strength.

“The key both to reduce the number of abandonments and to increase the number of adoptions is to be informed and aware of what adopting an animal entails,” says Sofía Ochoa. The FAADA expert agrees with her, who also points out to the administrations: «A state law is needed for a homogeneous protection of animals, since currently each Autonomous Community has the powers transferred».

That is the objective pursued by the preliminary draft law on animal welfare, which mainly contemplates prohibiting animal slaughter (today the decision depends on the regional governments), putting an end to the uncontrolled sale of animals in stores, promoting sterilization to avoid accidental offspring and create a state registry of people with a history of abuse and who have been disqualified from having animals. “These are very brave measures, although we would like them to go further,” says Fornieles.

What about the rest of the animals?

The objective of the law, the document collects, “is to guarantee the rights and defense of animals that live in the urban environment.” So it includes dogs and cats, but also other domestic or wild animals, also victims of abandonment.

“Ferrets, lovebirds, guinea pigs, a Vietnamese pig and then a few chickens, some sheep that got lost and now we have a goat have arrived here,” Ochoa lists, explaining that these types of animals usually arrive with the complete package: “Domestic rabbits, for example, are often left on top of the container in the cage”. From the center they try to find a way out for all of them, either by putting them up for adoption in the case of domestic animals, or by rescuing, recovering and reinserting them through other organizations, such as the Wild Animal Recovery Center (CRAS) or the Rehabilitation Group of Autochthonous Fauna and its Habitat (GREFA), in the case of wild, wild and exotic animals.

Farm animals also have their own shelters. One of them is the Gaia de Camprodón Sanctuary (Girona), a 40-hectare farm located in the Catalan Pyrenees where more than 1,600 badly injured, mistreated, abandoned or exploited farm animals have been rescued for nine years.

“There are people who contact us because they have found a newborn lamb in the middle of the field, a badly injured donkey or a pig that has been discarded near a slaughterhouse,” explains veterinarian Coque Fernández, founder together with his partner, Ismael López, from the Sanctuary. “Sometimes it is authorities like Seprona that, after rescuing animals that have suffered abuse, bring them to us,” he continues. The foundation is financed with donations from nearly 2,000 members who contribute their grain of sand to take care of the more than 500 animals that today reside in the shelter, and that are made up of cows, horses, donkeys, pigs, sheep, chickens and “any animal that needs it,” says Fernández. And he concludes: “The difference with a shelter is that the animals that come here are not adopted, but this is their forever home and we take care of them all their lives.”