Walking out in the fields the other day I came upon a young man walking a dog and asked if I could take a photo of the pooch. He man said sure, but that the dog wasn’t his. The pooch was from the local animal shelter and he was just taking it for a walk.
It turns out that Marc, the young man, lives in Olot, a town about 40 minutes away. Marc comes into Figueres two or three times a week expressly to walk dogs that live in the shelter. He does this because the staff at the shelter doesn’t.
I told Marc I had heard some bad things about the shelter. Marc said that whatever I’ve heard, it’s even worse. But in fact, I’ve never heard anything specific. People just say the shelter is bad and I was warned that if I wanted to make a donation that would actually help the animals, better to bring in food or equipment than to give money.
Marc said the conditions for the dogs at the shelter are deplorable. The cages are small, they aren’t clean, the dogs get no exercise, they stay there a short while and then, if they are not one of the popular breeds, they are killed. It is hard to adopt even one of the popular breeds because the dogs become unsociable. It’s possible they are abused. He said the situation for the cats is even worse. Only a few of the popular dog breeds get adopted, as that is the mindset of the Spaniards who do want a dog. Less fashionable breeds and mutts don’t find homes.
Spain has no animal protection laws. Catalunya passed its own protection law just recently, in 2006. But as with most laws, if no one complains about an infraction, the law isn’t enforced.
I suppose it is good news that some people have finally filed a formal complaint about the Figueres animal shelter. Marc says that with the figures showing how many dogs were taken in, compared with how many were placed in homes and how many remain at the shelter, it shouldn’t be hard to prove that they have been killing a lot of dogs. If the shelter can be closed down, it would leave the way open for another group to open a real shelter. I wish this initiative a lot of luck, and have written to the organizer of the complaint to see how I can help.