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DOGS

Spain urged to stop ‘torture’ of unwanted greyhounds

With their narrow head and long legs, greyhounds are one of the fastest dog breeds on earth, making them the preferred choice of hunters in Spain to catch rabbits and hares. But instead of being rewarded, campaigners say greyhounds are often mistreated, especially once they have become too old to hunt.

Spain urged to stop 'torture' of unwanted greyhounds
Kristal, a volunteer plays with Greyhounds at Alhaurin de la Torre dog shelter. Photo: AFP

Some owners train their greyhounds to hunt by tying them to their cars with a long rope and then driving at 60 kilometres (40 miles) an hour, said Eduardo Aranyo of Spanish animal protection party PACMA.

“There are animals that end up destroyed, literally dragged by the car,” he told AFP.

Spain is one of only a handful of European countries that allow hunting with the aid of greyhounds, which trap, kill and pick up the prey. France, for example, banned hunting with greyhounds in 1844.

“The domestic dog, that we have at home, is an object of affection, that you love and care for. But for hunters, dogs are often just another tool for the hunt,” said a spokesman for the Civil Guard's nature protection service Seprona.

Spanish law is also soft in this area. Tying a greyhound to a car is an administrative not a criminal offence and is only a crime if it causes serious injury or death, he added.

Animal lovers are calling for a ban on hunting with greyhounds. A Change.org  petition is calling for the European Parliament to outlaw the practice.

Hunters own many greyhounds, or “galgos” as they are called in Spanish, and this sometimes leads them to place little value on their lives, said Teresa Regojo of the Galgos en Familia rescue group which runs a greyhound shelter in Malaga in southwestern Spain.

“Hunters have at least ten. They make them reproduce without any control to have a champion greyhound,” she said as she was surrounded by about two dozen greyhounds at the shelter.

When the hunting season — which runs from November to February — ends, many hunters simply abandon their greyhounds.

Campaigners such as SOS Galgos and Galgos del Sur estimate that 150,000 animals are abandoned in Spain each year, one-third of them greyhounds.

Some greyhounds are drowned by their owners or hung.

“There are less hangings but now they drown them by throwing them in wells because this is not seen, or they break their legs so they can't return home,” said the founder of Galgos en Familia, Vera Thorennar.

The retired Dutchwoman arranges to have the abandoned greyhounds which her refuge picks up adopted by families in other European nations or in the United States.

Hundreds of abandoned greyhounds end up in municipal kennels, where many are euthanized.

In a sign of shifting attitudes, in recent years courts have issued jail sentences for abuse of greyhounds.

A greyhound breeder and president of an association of hunters was sentenced in October 2013 in Toledo in central Spain to seven months in jail for hanging two dogs.

“There are more young people who work to save (greyhounds) and that is a good sign,” said Thorenaar.

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ANIMAL CRUELTY

‘Gratuitous cruelty’: Spain probes suspected abuse at animal testing lab

Spanish police and prosecutors said Monday they were investigating an animal testing lab after undercover footage showed staff there tossing around, smacking and taunting dogs, pigs and other animals.

'Gratuitous cruelty': Spain probes suspected abuse at animal testing lab
Handout: Cruelty Free International

“We were dismayed to see the images,” the head of the government’s directorate-general for animal protection, Sergio Garcia Torres, told AFP.

“It is a blatant case of animal abuse.”

Footage published Thursday by Cruelty Free International shows appears to show animals at the Vivotecnia animal testing facility being cut into apparently without having received anaesthetics.

Staff were also filmed swinging dogs and rats around and in one clip someone is drawing a face on a monkey’s genitals as the animal is pinned to a table.

The group said the footage was taken by a whistleblower who worked at the facility, which is on the outskirts of Madrid, between 2018 and 2020.

“There can be no doubt that such gratuitous cruelty causes unnecessary distress and suffering,” the animal rights group said in a statement.

“It is also unlawful.”

Police and public prosecutors said Monday they had opened separate investigations into Vivotecnia, which carries out experiments on animals for the pharmaceutical, cosmetic and food industries.

The company’s phone number was no longer working on Monday and its web site was down for maintenance.

In a statement cited by Spanish media, Vivotecnia chief executive Andres Konig said he was “shocked” at the images. But, he added, they did not “demonstrate the day-to-day reality at Vivotecnia”.

Following the outcry caused by the release of the footage, the Madrid regional government on Sunday temporarily halted activity at the animal testing facility.

Animal rights political party PACMA has filed a lawsuit against the managers of the company and urged the government to step up its supervision of animal testing.

“It’s a very opaque world and it could be that this is happening regularly without us knowing,” PACMA president Laura Duarte told AFP.

The Vivotecnia laboratory animals were examined by veterinarians and are being moved to other facilities.

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