Thursday, September 15, 2011

Spain Preserves Dark Ages Mentality

If you’ve ever followed a travel program on television—Gwyneth Paltrow in Spain … On the Road Again or Rick Steves’ Through the Back Door—or watched Woody Allen’s Vicky Cristina Barcelona, you’ve probably fallen head-over-heels for Spain. You’re familiar with its lovely landscapes, mosaic cities, and scrumptious cuisine. However, Spain keeps one of its worst secrets in the countryside, and I have to expose it in order for you to understand the crisis of a struggling shelter that needs our help.

Some animal welfare laws exist in Spain yet are not enforced, which is how the centuries-old boar- and hare-hunting practices continue. Hunters, called galgueros, use Galgos—a Spanish greyhound, cousin to the greyhounds known in the U.S. and the U.K.—and Podencos as their main “tools” and discard them at the end of EACH hunting season. Hunters spend as little time and money as possible in caring for these tools, typically confining the creatures to dirty, dark quarters with little water and food every few days. The dogs’ only “freedom” is hunting. When the season is over, they’re taken a distance from the hunters’ homes and 1) Tied to a fence or tree so they won’t return, 2) Tortured so they won’t return, 3) Taken to a “killing station,” or 4) Hung. (No hyperbole here. This is the G-rated version of how these dogs are treated.) Before the next hunting season rolls around, the hunters go to one of the innumerable Galgos puppy mills to buy a fresh tool.

The plight of the Galgos can hardly be blamed on only one segment of Spain’s population, though. The handful of shelters in Europe trying to rescue abandoned Galgos have found that folks in Spain don’t see them as pets—which is why, I suppose, they can walk by an injured or emaciated pooch and not only do nothing for it, but not think twice about it. So the shelters search for adopters in neighboring and distant countries.

Add to this the recent global economic tailspin and … voilà! … families are abandoning pets in record numbers alongside the Galgos. The shelters are overwhelmed. The granddaddy of them all—Scooby Medina, founded by Fermin Perez—has more than 500 dogs in its care now and, for the first time in its history, is having to turn away pooches in need. What’s more, Scooby lost its one lifeline it could count on: a subsidy of 3,000 euros a month. It was never enough, but it was the bread-and-butter of the operation.

In desperation and with only 5 months’ worth (now 4.5) of resources to continue operating, Scooby started Project 3000. Their aim is to get 600 supporters to pledge 5 euros a month for an entire year. That will make up for the loss of the subsidy. In dollar talk (and rounded up), Scooby should have at least $50,000 per year/$4,200 per month to care for the dogs. That’s a pledge of $7 a month for 600 people who care. And if more people knew about the Galgos, then Scooby could get even more money.

How We Can Help
1. Promote the cause.
Send a link [] to this post to everyone you know who cares about animals—especially those in Europe. E-mail it, put it on Facebook, blog about it, Tweet about it.
2. Give money. You can donate through PayPal (this link works for the U.S.), visit Scooby’s Web site for country-specific payment options, or write to U.S. Scooby volunteer Ms. Diane Ward at
3. Create a coat. That’s right—if you sew, use your skills for the Galgos. They’re very sensitive to the cold. You can even download a pattern from Galgo Rescue International Network (G.R.I.N.).
4. Send a letter to legislators. It’s time to stop the barbarians. Acknowledge cruelty for what it is and stop euphemizing it as “tradition” or “culture.” G.R.I.N. has contact info listed.

“Very little of the great cruelty shown by men can really be attributed to cruel instinct. Most of it comes from thoughtlessness or inherited habit. The roots of cruelty therefore, are not so much strong as widespread. But the time must come when inhumanity protected by custom and thoughtlessness will succumb before humanity championed by thought. Let us work that this time may come.”
—Albert Schweitzer

5. Sign petitions. There are a number of petitions out there to reform animal welfare laws in Europe and Spain. Scooby has links to a few.

I know you’re tugged at for all kinds of causes. And you may wonder why, with all the recent weather-related tragedies alone, I’m obsessing over some hunting dogs across the ocean that most people have never heard of. I guess it’s their very lack of celebrity that make the Galgos the most needy of the voiceless.

Let’s make Albert Schweitzer proud and show our humanity in the name of the Galgos. Get the word out, get the credit card out, and get the Galgos the help they deserve.

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