During the lockdown in 2020, dog owners in Spain enjoyed some freedom because the curfew in force at the time did not apply to walking the dog. In addition, investments were made in homely coziness and a four-legged friend was often appropriate. But now, dogs are being abandoned.
After the lockdown was lifted and normal life was more or less resumed, the purchase of the pet often turned out to be a problem. The dog was no longer a means of confinement, but a time- and attention-consuming obstacle. Never have so many dogs been abandoned as in the period after the first lockdown. Founder Ángel Félez of animal shelter Doghorsecity in Toledo tells the harrowing story to El Periodico de España.
No control by pet stores
During the lockdown, there was a remarkable amount of interest in adopting a dog. To prevent the animals from being returned afterward, Ángel had the new owners sign a contract stating that if the dog returned, a fine of €3,000 would follow. However, consequently, many new owners opted for a dog from a pet store. This is because pet stores don’t impose sanctions or carry out checks.
Even Ángel has known the necessary ups and downs in his life. He was once homeless for nine months himself, but he recovered and started his own transport company. In the end, he even employed 36 staff. He decided to turn his business into a social project and hired homeless workers. However, it didn’t turn out the way he’d hoped. He had to deal with people with complicated behavioural problems and he decided rather to devote himself to animal welfare.
This is how Doghorsecity was created 15 years ago. However, he does not only take care of dogs and horses, as the name suggests but also cats, goats, donkeys, a peacock, and even a llama. Meanwhile, he is a real dog specialist. He provides courses and training and in some court cases his expertise is even requested. Furthermore, he runs the animal shelter with the money he earns. He also receives donations, but otherwise, he has to do without subsidies. The dog adoption doesn’t make him any money. He gets €150 per dog, but of that money, the dogs are dewormed and castrated and he even has to put money into that.
4 dogs a week in 2021
On the grounds of the shelter, the dogs are separated from each other on the basis of breed and size. The most crowded are the greyhounds, the most often abandoned breed. But at the moment there is a dog of every conceivable breed housed in Doghorsecity. Ángel Félez says 2020 ended with nearly 800 abandoned dogs. 2021 is not completely over yet, but now there are already 980, that is 200 more in just a year and therefore an increase of 4 per week on average.
Peak number of shelter dogs after strict lockdown
There are no official figures available on the exact number of abandoned animals. Animal welfare organisation Fundación Affinity recently published that in 2020 there must have been around 286,000. Nor does a profile of the abandoned dog exist. Shelters provide shelter for dogs of all shapes and sizes that have been abandoned by their owners, peaking shortly after the lifting of the strict lockdown.
In any case, apart from the lack of official figures, according to Ángel it is certain that the number of abandoned dogs in Spain is relatively high. Hunters who discard their dogs when they are no longer suitable for hunting explains the high number of greyhounds left behind. The Finnish MEP Laura Huhtasaari has even asked the European Parliament for an explanation of how it is possible that 100,000 greyhounds are killed or abandoned every year in Spain.
For Ángel, official numbers are not necessary to know how dogs often end up in Spain. He witnesses daily the suffering that many of the animals he takes in have experienced. For example, Drac, the German Shepherd. He is extremely watchful and back and forth when the photographer from El Periodico de España wants to take a photo for the report. Drac was trained by his previous owner to attack women. Moreover, why will remain a mystery. When his owner abandoned him, he cut the dog’s neck to remove the chip so that he would not be traceable. Like Drac, all the dogs at Doghorsecity have their own, often sad, story. That is worrying with an estimated 11% increase in the number of abandoned dogs in 2021 compared to 2020.