WELFARE and protection for both animals and the human population, is top of the agenda for Torrevieja Councillor Carmen Morate.
In the hot seat for the past five months, this intelligent, passionate and friendly councillor granted The Euro Weekly News access to her office to discuss her plans for the future, difficulties within the town hall and being accessible to the ex-pat community.
Carmen has numerous hats she has to wear within the council as councillor for integration, immigrants, foreign relations, charity, volunteers and public health. She is also councillor for animal protection within a new animal department in which she has fought hard to create ‘something I am proud of.’
A keen ecologist who was born and raised in Germany, Carmen has been supporting the Los Verdes party for over six years with animal protection very close to her heart and she is already making waves in the municipality with changes to policy.
“No dog has died in the municipal pound in the last three months,” said the councillor who has personally paid out of her own pocket to ensure no dog has been put down along with the association Animalistas Torrevieja and Guardamar.
She added: “In the last two years (2013 and 2014), 600 cats and dogs were killed. I have all the invoices here, it really happened but this will not happen again. They could have spent that money on animal welfare.”
She is currently putting in place a new contract for a vet to ensure more treatments can be provided for the animals entering in the pound and they will not just be put down.
Carmen also dreams of new kennel facilities for Torrevieja. “It is a horrendous dog pound. In 2011 there was a project for a new one but it never happened.”
Carmen hopes to one day make this a reality but in the meantime is working closely with the facility, situated behind the eco-park opposite Carrefour, and with the help of the association and more volunteers, things are improving.
The kennel is open from 10am-2pm with adoptions available Tuesday and Thursdays from 10-11am, but Carmen can personally take people to see the animals outside these hours, such is her dedication to the cause. “It’s a 24 hour a day job but equally I think I really have found my dream job. I was involved in animal aid and was a volunteer at the dog pound, so to now be in a position to actually bring about changes is amazing.”
She also intends to set up a police group specialising in animal protection and the environment for Torrevieja: “We actually have good laws in place, such as fines for not cleaning up dog mess from the streets and for illegal breeding, but the problem is we have no police to implement this.”
The Local Police force is an issue Carmen explains the mayor is working on and is in weekly meetings with officers to try and resolve past disputes.
“Policing is a priority, it is fundamental to everything else. We have 153 Local Police. Of these, 50 are on sick leave and of the 103 remaining we have 20 on minimal duties. Of the other 83, only 50 have had the required and correct training to carry guns and carry out full policing duties.
According to current legislation, no town is allowed to take on new staff until 2017 so the mayor is trying to resolve the issues to get those 50 who are off sick, back on duty. Seven have already returned to work.”
This is one of the mayor’s main priorities at present, which Carmen said does not mean they are not fully aware as a council what else is needed by citizens.
As councillor for immigrants and foreign relations, she is aware of the anger and frustration at the situation with the plans for La Siesta park not being completed. “It is a mess that we have inherited and that we are trying to clear it up before a new project can be issued and we are trying to get money from the regional government to fund it and improve and make other parks.
“It will get finished, but the mayor said at the moment, when there are people living on the streets and children going without food, it is not a priority and again, we need the police issue resolved. We need to have the security of users and the actual park guaranteed first.”
Carmen is soon to welcome on board Carlos who will help her in assisting foreign residents and the many NGO’s in the city. They will be operating an open door policy at the AMICS office from 10am-2pm and said contact has so far been limited as they were left no information. “We walked into empty offices so have had to start again but we do care and we do want to collaborate.”