In Spain, there are facts and fiction. The fiction is that the galgos are protected by the variety of laws that exist, both on a national as well as on a regional level. The facts are that thousands of galgos suffer from intense neglect, cruelty and human disdain.
Art. 337 of the Spanish Penal Code, amended in December 2010, has the objective to protect pets and tamed animals against “unreasonable abuse”. Still many people are confronted with the most horrendous cases of cruelty. Galgos that are severely beaten, dumped in wells, hanged, starved and tortured… and very few of these make their way into the legal system.
Very little interest
The political neglect of this situation is overwhelming. The Spanish authorities fail to seriously address the cruelty inflicted upon galgos and thus hinder the important promotion and progression of animal welfare awareness. Not only the local authorities, but also the national government expresses very little interest in the matter.
The Nucleo Zoologico concerns itself with animal welfare regulations for those animals that are held for their “use or profit”. All those that own five dogs or more for this purpose, should provide proper housing, basic veterinary and general care.
Some never see daylight
However, again, there is a great discrepancy between the letter of the law and the daily reality. Many owners keep a large number of dogs under deplorable circumstances. Galgos are packed together in cramped spaces amidst their own faeces, undernourished or chained up without room to move. Some never see daylight in their lives or have no shelter whatsoever against the elements. To make matters worse, proper veterinary care is withheld. The lack of interest from the authorities in these cases is overwhelming. Almost no enforcement of these regulations is seen, leaving an enormous number of galgos suffering throughout their tragic and short lives.
“Animales de renta”
On a regional level, all 17 autonomous regions of Spain have legislation concerning animal welfare, which are mainly geared towards companion animals. Under these laws, the galgos are considered “animales de renta” (animals of use to people), and thus excluded as a pet. Thus, the galgos are treated and considered outside of these laws. The situation is particularly distressing in Castile y Leon, Extremadura, Andalusia and Castile la Mancha. A strong social, “cultural” and “traditional” tendency exists in Spain that prevents those in authority to promote the actual change of this situation. Nor does the national government spur its regions into action concerning this matter. Thus, the galgos become just collateral damage in the cultural arena of coursing, racing and hunting.
It is worth noting that Spain also signed the guidelines by of the OIE Terrestrial Animal Health Standards Commission /September 2009. The objective of these guidelines is the control and management of the stray dog populations. According to the OIE an effective management practice is reducing the number of stray dogs to an acceptable level coupled with the promotion of responsible dog ownership. It also gives clear guidelines as to what might be considered humane euthanasia, should this extreme measure be a chosen tool in stray dog management. By signing the guidelines, Spain has projected a firm commitment to these methods.
Massive over breeding is one of the main causes of the horrible situation galgos fall victim to. By allowing the unbridled and indiscriminate breeding of these dogs and consequent dumping of thousand of galgos to continue, the Spanish government fails on all accounts to demonstrate their commitment to the Animal Health Standards. Firstly, all efforts to control the stray dog population are counteracted, because at the end of the hunting season thousands of galgos are dumped and abandoned without consequence. Secondly, by allowing this the government actually promotes irresponsible dog ownership. And thirdly, it does not use of the perrera’s (the killing stations often run by commercial businesses under dubious circumstances) as the ultimate tool of in dog population control but instead reinforces the cycle of destruction of young, healthy and beautiful dogs.