Written by Vivienne Wharton of Tara Case Dog Holiday Retreat in Murcia, Spain
It was with a heavy heart that I found myself going along one March day to the rescue in Bullas Murcia. We set off to save a group of dogs, hoarded together and fed once a week on dried bread and crisps. The owner wanted to use the dogs to breed puppies for next year’s hunters. Some hunters dispose of these dogs like unwanted garbage at the end of each season. For those of you that have never known a Galgo or a Podenco, these loving intelligent and gentle creatures do not deserve this. They have served their master and are then treated as though they are an unwanted and useless piece of machinery.
The Bullas rescue was planned by an organization called Pro-Setter. A legal battle ensued against the owner to get access to the dogs and access was allowed on a few prior arranged days, when only registered organizations could go in and rescue these dogs. I went along with the Little Pod Foundation, a great organization who had been very active in many rescues, including the one of the Beagles released from the Barcelona Laboratory. Along with them, we made plans to rescue eight Podencos. I was proud to be part of their team as it was a heart rending assignment, choosing which dogs to take and which to leave and I am glad I didn’t have to make the choice.
A lot of planning had to be made very quickly prior to the rescue, for the veterinary treatment, the travel, the tests and the inoculations and of course their foster care. It seemed impossible with so many other things happening and needy dogs everywhere, funds had to be acquired for all of this and at the moment most charities are struggling, with the worst season for abandonment situations in many years.
When we arrived, we were shocked to see that the conditions these dogs were in was diabolical. There were many hoarded in one huge enclosure, some of them terrified, some of them barely able to stand; the stronger ones still wagged their tails and I swear I could see in their body language the relief when we arrived.
Many were chained to trees with string so tight it cut into their necks; they had sores where they were so thin and lying on the cold ground, standing in their own poo, sick and urine. Their poor legs were sore and some had mange.
They had been fed occasionally on potato crisps and stale bread by their owner, so we understand. Once the volunteers had access and were able to give them food, their poor little tummies could barely cope with it. It was lovely to see, though, that as many of the dogs were put on collars and leads and given love and strokes, their demeanor changed as the day progressed.
The worst part of this day was that I knew the huge freshly dug holes in the ground were filled with the bodies of the poor creatures who did not survive; I didn’t dare look but photographic evidence was taken and I believe very harrowing to see.
A voluntary vet was on hand who chipped the dogs as the charities decided which they would take, they were passported and vaccinated for rabies; that part of it truly impressed me, it was all voluntary and paid for by contributions and charities. What a fantastic bunch of people. We have many dogs locally that need help too and so it makes it all the more harder, but this is an epidemic and we all need to help wherever we can. At the end of the day, all dogs were rescued, but I am sad to report that the owner has another site where the same thing is taking place.
The only thing we must do now is to try to fight. In Spain, 50,000 hunting dogs are murdered and abandoned every year after the hunting season. These beautiful Galgos (Spanish greyhounds), Podencos and many other hunting breeds are horribly treated throughout their poor lives and there are no laws in Spain to protect them. This is going on all over Spain.
Unscrupulous owners are keeping dogs-en-masse in terrible conditions, allowing the dogs to starve or to suffer from disease and of course left in the open elements of a cold Spanish winter. Some are hung from trees, or burned alive or drowned.