After much deliberation concerning the future of her country house set in four acres of land in the Montes de Málaga, an Irish woman with a heart of gold has decided to donate the property to be used as an animal sanctuary.
Gráinne O'Carroll, known locally as Grace, ran a vegan bistro in Benalmádena for several years, but decided to return to Ireland to be with her family. She sold the restaurant, however did not know what to do with her house. Her options included long-term rental or putting it on the market. Countless stories of nightmare tenants put her off renting, and the sales market would mean selling at a huge loss, or waiting years for a buyer. Neither option seemed particularly appealing, so, after careful consideration, she decided to donate it to benefit animals.
Grace, a militant vegan and passionate animal lover, had originally intended to use the land as an animal refuge herself, but the project never materialised.
"My plan had always been to use my land as a sanctuary, so it made more sense for me to pass it on to someone who would use it wisely. If I sold the house quickly, the loss would have meant less money for me to use to help animals," the benevolent vegan explained to SUR in English.
Grace sought the assistance of Veganos por Malaga, a local vegan group, that ran an online campaign to find suitable applicants who would use the donation wisely.
Grace was inundated with replies and, although she considered them all, one in particular stood out.
Fran Canto Montero and his partner, Juan, have been looking after abandoned and mistreated animals at a rented property in Malaga for more than 17 years. Their efforts have been sponsored by Fran's employers, Galguau, a Malaga-based pet product wholesalers.
The couple's dedication and tireless work with animals (and the fact that they are both staunch vegans) convinced Grace that they would be suitable applicants. Before making her final decision, Grace met with Fran and instantly knew that giving her house and land to him was the right thing to do. Fran introduced her to his 'family' of rescued animals, which currently includes seven greyhounds, three donkeys, several feral cats and songbirds and chickens that had been abandoned by their owners.
"Really, it was just a feeling. They were vegan, so I knew all animals would be loved and welcomed; plus they already had animals that they supported personally, so I knew they weren't just looking for a freebie. I didn't mention the house at first [only the land] because I wanted to make sure the recipient was sincere. I met Fran alone at first; when he introduced me to his gang, it was friendship at first sight," Grace said.
Grace moved back to Ireland in February, but returned to Malaga this week to sign over the deeds and hand the keys to the new owners of the property.
Fran and Juan will now begin to transform the land into a sanctuary and are looking forward to a new chapter in their lives thanks to the generous gift of a like-minded animal lover.
"We are so happy, it's difficult to explain. It is a unique situation and a unique moment in our lives. We think it is amazing that someone can love animals so much to make a decision like this: we have been so lucky.
"Grace is an incredible woman, she has a heart of gold and she will always have a special place in our hearts. She will always have true friends here and we will always be thankful to her," Fran said .