AN EXPATRIATE in Alhaurin de la Torre saves hundreds of abandoned greyhounds, often finding them new homes and lives as far as 6,000 kilometres away.
Used to catch hares, for clandestine races or breeding, once they reach the age of four, some are handed in to refuges but others are just dumped by the side of a road.
Vera Thorenaar, a Dutch woman who has lived in Malaga province for 30 years, opened a refuge in Alhaurin de la Torre in 2010 to take in greyhounds and find them homes in Spain and abroad.
Although the refuge has space for just 30 dogs at a time, collaboration with international groups allowed the refuge to arrange 190 adoptions last year.
About 20 of these travelled all the way to the US thanks to the Galgo Rescue International association.
US regulations only allow dogs to travel in March, April, May, October and November to avoid extreme temperatures. First the greyhounds are driven to Madrid, where they spend the night at a hotel near the airport before flying to New York.
A Spanish or American volunteer accompanies the dogs on their flights, and they usually relax in their carriers and do not need tranquilising, Thorenaar explained.
Once an animal leaves Spain it is placed in the custody of the foreign association, and if it does not fit in with the adopted family, something that very rarely happens, another home is found in the same country.
Most dogs sent abroad go to Holland and Belgium, thanks to collaborations with Greyhound Rescue Holland and Greyhounds Rescue Belgium, and also to Austria, Finland, France and the UK.