Horrific stories of puppies being tied up and thrown into ravines, or hanged from trees have rallied Brits to call for change in Spain.
A week-old puppy now named Rosa was tied up into a bag with her siblings and thrown into a ravine to die.
Another Spanish dog named Toby was shot in the eye after he killed a chicken and then dumped by his owner.
Many other Spanish hunting dogs are hung from trees when found to be no longer useful, or simply abandoned somewhere to become a stray.
Some dogs like Rosa and Toby are eventually rescued and taken in, many by canine-lovers in the UK, prompting a group of British pet-owners to create the Podenco Alliance to raise awareness about practices in Spain.
“The appalling treatment of Spanish Hunting Dogs strikes a chill to the heart,” said English actress and Podenco Alliance supporter Joanna Lumley OBE in a statement.
“It is impossible to believe that a country as sophisticated and fine as Spain could tolerate such unforgivable cruelty to living creatures,” said the actress famed for her role in the comedy Absolutely Fabulous.
“I add my name to the many who are calling for this inhumanity to be stopped once and for all,” she said.
Protest outside the Spanish Embassy in London. Photo: All rights reserved Paul Louis Archer
The group explains that many podencos and other hunting dog breeds are abandoned or killed when they’re deemed “too slow, too old” or generally no longer useful.
“There is an absolute lack of compassion for these dogs and they're treated like objects that can just be thrown away,” organizer Polly Mathewson told The Local.
Mathewson said many Brits have become involved after visiting or living in Spain, like she did, and seeing the number of stray, skinny dogs on the streets.
The advocacy group joined with partners Podenco Support South West and 16 other concerned groups to stage a protest in London last weekend outside the Spanish Embassy, there were also demonstrations in Manchester and Glasgow, dubbing May 1st the International Day of the Podenco.
Podenco Alliance wants Spain to increase education on animal welfare and implement better legislation to protect the dogs.
In a country where tradition includes spectacles of killing bulls and duck-throwing, progress for animal rights activists has been gradual, but Spain recently has been taking more steps in this direction, sending a man to prison last year for the first time ever for animal abuse after he beat his horse to death.
Soon after, another man was jailed for letting his dog starve to death.
Another practice by hunters that has elicited outrage is cutting off parts of their dogs’ ears and tails, which owners argue is part of “ancestral” heritage to protect the dogs from burrs and brambles that could result in infection.
But activists point out that this practice is often performed crudely without medical care, and that the wounds do not heal properly, causing lifelong problems for the dog.
The British group Podenco Alliance has teamed up with Spanish organizations like animal rights party PACMA, and similar events are also planned to be held in Berlin, The Hague and Strasbourg, France.