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LEFT FOR DEAD: Brit campaigner fights to stop abandoned hunting dog deaths in Spain

THE February end of the hunting season in Spain has seen a massive increase in the number of dogs abandoned – estimated to be 50,000 – according to an animal charity.

A British woman, Anna Clements, originally from Manchester, is campaigning with Barcelona-based charity SOS Galgos to save thousands of abandoned greyhounds (galgos) in Spain, which are used to chase small mammals and birds including hares, rabbits, grouse, pheasants and geese during the hunting season.

The charity claims that the dogs are sometimes thrown down wells, tied to railway lines or abandoned at the side of the road as the mid-October to early February hunting season comes to a close.

Anna told the Daily Mail: “This is Spain’s dirty secret and something tourists rarely see.

“They are brutally treated when the hunters have finished with them – some are thrown down wells.”

“This cruelty is not what tourists see but the government is slow to take action because the hunting lobby is so powerful,” Clements said.

The charity says: “Every year in Spain tens of thousands of galgos (Spanish greyhounds) are found in dire straits. Within the hunting community of galgueros (hunters who own greyhounds) it is generally accepted that when a greyhound is no longer competitive, which is usually after two or three hunting seasons, it is considered “soiled” and no longer of any use to the hunter. Galgueros own packs of greyhounds that are kept in dirty and cramped conditions, often in concrete bunker-like basements. They maintain that the animals are housed in this way to prevent them from being stolen by gypsies or other hunters.

They go on to claim: “There are many ways in which galgueros discard their dogs when these are no longer deemed to be useful. It is common practice for them to be taken to the local municipal pound where they are put down after a 10-day waiting period. But it is not unusual, either, for them to be thrown down wells, hung from trees in olive groves or simply abandoned. The bad press it has received in recent years has put the hunting lobby on the defensive: in media interviews they forthrightly deny the allegations, claiming that these are stories made up by animal welfare organisations.

“A large part of the problem can be attributed to the lack of cruelty reports. Cruel treatment of greyhounds occurs in tight-knit communities in rural areas, where people are often afraid to come forward for fear of reprisals of one form or another on the part of the perpetrators. The authorities tend to turn a blind eye, and the resulting lack of police reports means the government is led to believe there is no problem.

“Educating children to uphold and cherish more humane values is the only way of bringing about a cultural change in the thinking of rural communities in Spain.”

SOS Galgos has been rescuing greyhounds in the regions of Castilla La Mancha, Castilla Leon and Andalucia for nearly twenty years now.

Over the years, as well as raising public awareness of the issue, SOS Galgos has rescued, rehabilitated and given a new home to some 3,000 greyhounds. But they say much more remains to be done.

“The vast scale on which greyhounds are abandoned at the end of the hunting season every year means that ongoing action needs to be taken to help build a brighter future for many, many more of these animals. With your help we can make this happen.”