The 50 volunteers who attended the Guimarães kennel last Saturday surprised Isabel Rodrigues vice-president of the Guimarães Animal Protection Society. “But they are very accurate, because otherwise there are animals that don’t see the light of day for weeks on end,” she concludes.
There are between 80 and 90 dogs at the Official Collection Center (CRO) of the Municipality of Guimarães. There are 46 who are in a ward similar to the worst prison imaginable. There are two narrow corridors, flanked by cramped cages, where the animals stay for consecutive days, in a space where the bigger ones even find it difficult to go around completely. There are only two cages that are twice the size for larger animals such as Snow, a white-furred giant who “thankfully has now been adopted”.
The kennel even has generously sized outdoor parks, but the animals come from very different origins and cannot be brought together in a pen all together, for reasons of socialization. In the parks there are half a dozen lucky ones because they have a more docile nature or because they are more sociable. The vast majority are in cages, in a dark environment and permanently disturbed by the unstoppable barking of the other frustrated animals.
Even in these cages, the kennel no longer has space, there is a female dog that has been sterilized convalescing in the bathing area and a cattery area has been transformed into a ward for dogs.
The works have been promised for years
“If there were more partitions in the outdoor parks, it would not be necessary to have so many animals trapped”, explains Isabel Rodrigues. The works on the Municipal Kennel / Cattery are an old SPAG struggle and have been promised by the Guimarães City Council for several years, but they are slow to move forward. In February 2020, councilor Sofia Ferreira – who is responsible for the CRO – advanced with the information that the municipality would only be waiting for the delivery of the final project, subject to changes, “taking into account the change in legislation. ” However, two years later, the Municipality has not yet committed itself to a date for the start of the works.
Other SPAG complaints are related to the kennel hours and the access facilities for the association’s volunteers. “We can only be at the kennel when it is open to the public, that is, from 9:30 to 12:00 and from 14:00 to 15:30, during the week and on Saturdays from 9:30 to 11:30. During the week, at these times, our volunteers are working, therefore, it is not possible to work with the animals. “There should be more after-work and weekend hours”, complains Isabel Rodrigues.
This Saturday all the animals walked, because the news created a wave of solidarity that made the group increase from four or five to 22 two weekends ago and to 50 now. “Today all the animals left, but this is not the norm. What happens is that the volunteers arrive here and, as they only have two hours and there are 46 animals to take outside, they make choices. They take those who are in the worst condition for a walk, the others have to endure another week”, laments Isabel Rodrigues.
Despite being many, all animals have a name and, in the vast majority of cases, they are sweet. First-time volunteers describe a great experience. “I missed it a lot, I always had animals, now I can’t afford it and this was a way of living with them for a while”, says Anita Domenico. In the surroundings of the kennel there are dozens of people with one or two dogs on a leash, the animals radiate happiness, after a week in captivity, and people, many of them with children, seem infected by the joy of the animals.
SPAG lives a lot from the good will of these volunteers, either for the time they dedicate or even for the contributions. “There are animals that are in such bad condition that they cannot come to a place like this”, says Isabel Rodrigues. This was the case with Jaime, a dog who was, for two years, since he was born, tied up with a half-meter chain. “If I left one prison to come to another it wouldn’t be worth it”, says the SPAG leader. In these cases, the godfathers and godmothers who, with their contribution, allow these animals to be placed in sanctuaries are valid. Like Pedro and Juliana, emigrants in Belgium, who often help SPAG in these situations. “As we are far away, we cannot always be present in the actions, but we try to help as we can”, says Pedro, with the couple’s daughter, Mafalda, in his arms.
Veterinary nurse Raquel Rocha outlines the profile of the animals that come to the CRO: “abandoned dogs, more females, in the case of cats, litters from this point on, two months after the cats are in heat”. After 2019, by law, all dogs should have a microchip, for cats the adaptation period ends in October this year, however, there is no shortage of animals in the kennel without any type of identification.
Delayed sterilization of cats
In the case of cats, the CED program (capture-sterilize-return) is the solution that is underway to control groups of stray animals, explains the nurse. SPAG recognizes that it is a good measure, but emphasizes that it is late and that it is necessary to open the possibility of sterilizations being carried out by private clinics, since “the municipal veterinarian alone cannot”. The cats that are the target of this program are marked with a cut on the tip of the ear, in order to be recognized, so as not to be caught again.
Captured cats are also tested for FIV (feline immunodeficiency) and FELV (leukemia) and, if they are positive, they cannot be released again, however, they cannot be kept in the cattery either, because the law does not allow it. These animals have to be slaughtered. SPAG believes that this is a loophole in the law and that the catteries should create conditions to isolate these animals.
Anyone who adopts an animal at the CRO of Guimarães, already takes it with the main vaccines, with deworming and with the microchip. People who want to help, as volunteers, can register until Wednesday of each week, through SPAG’s social networks.
Late Saturday morning, the animals return to their cages tired but happy. If, over the next few weekends, the number of human friends drops again, the dogs go back to spending consecutive weeks without seeing sunlight. SPAG calls for the participation of all those who can give a little of their time to this cause.