April & Paul Carrier like the sun and they get plenty of it in Rota, near Cadiz, where they have their home, the Alpha Dog Centre. They describe it as a summer camp to some, boot camp to others and a sanctuary to galgos.
I talked to them about their involvement with galgos, and how it all came about.
April starts the story. 'Our initial contact with galgos was when we received a call from a customer, Hailey, who asked us to board a litter of galgo puppies over the Christmas period of 2001, and then we were asked to board the puppies' mother till a home could be found for her.'
Hailey told them the story of a refuge in Villamartin, near Jerez, which was where the galga had been when she was rescued. She asked Paul to visit it with her and, accompanied by a couple of local vets and some volunteers, they went to see if at least some of the galgos could be treated, and the lives of the dogs improved.
Paul says, 'I was horrified by the terrible conditions in which the dogs were living, sleeping in their own muck, some quietly dying, unnoticed, with no strength left to eat or drink. Fights were common between the galgos as they struggled to get enough to eat and drink, as there was precious little of either.
Many were scarred and bleeding, emaciated, with desperate eyes and little trust of humans. It seemed that whatever we could do would never be enough to ease the suffering of these dogs, many of which had been dumped there by galgueros (Spanish hunters) who could find no further use for these poor animals.'
This is when Anne Finch's charity Greyhounds in Need, became involved in the rescuing of the galgos of Villamartin. Hailey send Anne information and photos of the dogs and their living conditions, and Anne approached us and asked if we could board 6 of these dogs and prepare them for export out of Spain, to be adopted in Belgium.
Since then they have had at least 6 galgos, and sometimes as many as 22 galgos, to rehabilitate and prepare for adoption. They work with half a dozen adoption associations in the UK, France, Belgium and Germany, and 2 of our galgos have been adopted in Norway.
April says they have never rehomed a galgo in Spain. 'There is a risk of the dogs being stolen and many of the refugios have to keep their galgos at secret hidden locations to prevent this problem. Having said that, SOS Galgos works hard to rehome galgos in Spain, with some success.'
I asked how long, on average, it takes for a galgo to be rehabilitated ready for adoption. 'The average period of time a galgo needs for recovery is around 6-8 weeks. Physically, we ask our vet to do blood tests for diseases such as Leishmania and heartworm; the galgos are vaccinated against rabies, distemper, parvo virus etc.; treated for fleas, ticks and intestinal infestation, and all are microchipped.
All the galgos are spayed and castrated. Any who need it are given treatment for disease, skin problems, sometimes for wounds, broken legs, mutilated feet. We also work with those galgos who are depressed, have given up on life, or who are extremely timit, terrified of people, of being beaten. Some of these can take up to 6 months to recover, and some never fully recover.'
They say there has been a gradual improvement in pet care over the last 7 years, with more owners visiting the vet for routine vaccinations, flea, tick and worming treatments. However, there is still widespread neglect and cruelty in many rural farming areas where animals are still considered as commodities, and are not treated with kindness or respect.
New Spanish laws against cruelty, and obligatory microchipping of dogs, cats, horses and ferrets is beginning to have a positive effect on the attitudes and responsibilities of pet owners. But there is still a long way to go.
April concludes, 'We'd like to say a big thank you to all those who have supported us in our efforts with the galgos, people who have collected bedding, donated food, leads and collars, and those who have donated money. A special thank you to Pip and Martin whose efforts helped us to buy a vehicle to transport the galgos from Rota to France and from Rota to Malaga Airport.
We fervently hope that what we do helps in making people living in Spain and elsewhere more aware of the terrible cruelty inflicted on this gentle breed, and also to emphasize what wonderful family pets they make, if they are just given the chance.'
To read more about the dogs April and Paul have helped, read Scuttle's story.