Spain is one of the few countries where greyhound hunting is a legal practice. What was long ago a livelihood for rural families now, in decline and far from being a vital activity, has been converted into sport, framing it within the cultural tradition of the country to ensure its prevalence. The dogs that the “galguero” (greyhound owner) considers unfit for hunting are discarded throughout the year, especially in October and February coinciding with the beginning and end of the hunting season. A small number are transferred to Animal Protection Centers and particular associations throughout the country, but massive abandonment continues to be the usual discard procedure. In the worst of cases, they are killed using highly cruel practices such as hanging or being thrown into wells and fosses.
According to data estimated in the Affinity Foundation report, published in 2022, 168.000 dogs were collected, many of them without chip identification, by shelters and protectors who participated in their study. The abandonment of dogs at the end of the hunting season is the second most important cause, after unwanted litters. In Spain there is no law on the control of breeding and anyone can have an undetermined number of dogs. The social perception that this situation is a black legend and that it does not happen at present, where the crossing of data between protectors and shelters contrasts with the data used by hunting associations and official institutions such as the Civil Guard, aggravates the situation.
Shelters provide support for as many of these animals as possible, who often arrive in appalling physical conditions (that they will pay from their own funds) with fears and sequels that sometimes will be difficult to overcome because of the terrible conditions in which they have lived. All this added to the problem of overpopulation that these entities have and the difficulty in officiating the adoption of animals with injuries in adulthood.
Ciudad Animal is a shelter for dogs and cats in Ciudad Real (Castilla la Mancha) in 2022 of the 180 dogs of capacity that have in their facilities 90% are greyhounds. It develops its work thanks to the help of volunteers and protectors that from Germany support them and welcome a great majority of dogs for their adoption.
Vicente belongs to one of the 14 rescue teams of SOS Rescue, whose main work in several autonomous communities, is in the street collecting with trap cages abandoned dogs in areas where volunteers have previously created a routine with food in the animal for capture. These groups also take care of shelters, residences and veterinary bills for the rescued animals. Of the last dogs rescued by Vicente in March 2022, the vast majority were greyhounds, the previous year he rescued more than 800 dogs.
Spanish legislation, which is not very severe in terms of the animal section, with sentences of less than 24 months, where the individual will not go to prison if he does not have a criminal record. It allows this situation to continue developing each year, increasing the number of cases of abandonment since 2015. As an example, in 2023, the Spanish government passed the animal welfare law, where hunting dogs, among others, were left out of the same law.
Microchip identification, legislative control over animal husbandry, sterilization as a method of population control, and adoption are important strategies for preventing abandonment. But there is a need for collaboration between the public administration and private entities as well as support in citizen education of responsible care to avoid abandonment in the long term. It is essential to understand the obligations and advantages of adopting animals and how your company can influence our lives.
Photography and text David Arribas
Text, edition and Translation Clara Muro