Last month on Facebook a graphic description of events at a perrera in Spain shocked many, and served as a reminder to others as to why so many expats living in Spain get involved in Animal Rescue.
For many this was their first real exposure to these ‘killing stations’ as in recent months a huge amount of ‘newbies’ have got involved with helping to rehome dogs from Spain, which is great, but does create a need for some education (in my opinion).
First though the Facebook status that caused such condemnation:
I have had the worst day of my life…again I am sitting here crying my heart out…I cannot face posting or answering questions, I just want to curl up in a ball…I went to (pererra) today…trying to save some pregnant podencos…they were killing and burning all the sick and left over dogs….I cannot get the screaming and the smell out of my ears and nose…I just can´t face this…I am broken…I want to tell everyone…I want to scream at all the bastards that keep telling me I do not have the correct systems in place to re home these dogs…I want to drag them by their hair and let them witness what I did today…I am completely in a mess here…all the dogs I knew, all their faces are gone…and I couldn´t save them.
While this is not the case with every pererra, nor is it an isolated instance. It is important to clarify that the dogs weren’t been burnt alive, but still it is an undignified, and unnecessary death for so many. I have visited a lot of the perreras across Spain and would say that in general they are caring and compassionate and really want the animals to be rehomed.
What people need to remember is that in reality these are very much ‘last chance’ venues for the unwanted cats and dogs. These animals tend to have been dumped by owners either on the streets or into the pererra, and while in no way ideal it is a chance, however slim, for them to be saved. And for that reason, and however hard it is, ‘naming and shaming’ a perrara is not a good idea as they will (and have done many times) ban the individual from going which means that they can no longer help the animals.
The above description generated a lot of condemnation and calls for these pererra’s to be closed down. As with everything in Spain it is never that simple, and what would be the alternative? Without doubt the system is overloaded because of the crisis. Yes a sterilisation programme across Spain would make a huge difference. An educational program to improve the attitude of the Spanish towards their pets would go a long way as well, but these would all take time and in the meantime what happens to the animals?
I am afraid that it is really a case of ‘better the devil you know’. A lot of animal rescue people in Spain have developed good relationships with their local perrera, enabling then to get advanced notice of at risk animals and working with them to get them released into foster homes and to new adoptants.
For me it needs to be viewed as a conveyor belt. I know that may sound cold but it is important to remember that not every at risk cat or dog can or should be rehomed, yet everyone deserves a chance of a life. People need to understand that and recognise that a different strategy is required for each.
Tempting as it may be to rush a perrera dog into a new home care must be taken that diseases aren’t spread and that Spain doesn’t get a bad reputation for sending ill behaved dogs to new homes. I am no dog expert but I don’t think it takes a genius to figure out that a recently saved animal needs time to adjust to being in human company, to get fit, to overcome any anxieties or nerves.
Personally I don’t think a cat or dog should be rehomed directly from a perrera, but so long as people are willing to give the animal time, understand the potential issues and risk and the animal has a correct pet passport and has been signed off as healthy to travel by a vet then we will take them.
For me though the protectora needs to have a much more important part to play. I mentioned a conveyor belt approach and in an ideal world I would like to see a rescued dog go from a perrera into a protectora, where it will have more time and more attention to get fit, healthy and be assessed for suitability for re-homing. These protectora’s have the experience and reputations that are necessary for successful rehoming and I think that it would make sense for the ‘newbies’ to take some time to build relationships with these organisations and figure out how they can best work together.
And in case you don’t know the difference between a protectora and a perrera ….
A protectora is generally privately run (like a charity or association) and cares for all the dogs until they find homes for them. A protectora will also provide veterinary care for sick or injured animals.
A perrera is usually municipal and government funded. Due to the massive numbers that are taken in on a daily basis (a volunteer in a perrera in Cordoba said they take in on average 20 dogs a day!), the dogs are put to sleep after between 14 and 28 days if they aren’t claimed by the owner (although many perreras use the “kill dates” to encourage people to adopt or pay for residence and don’t actually put them to sleep at all), or found a new home. Perreras will more often that not destroy a sick or injured animal.