Animal charities face hard times as shops and shelters close

Dogs at the ADANA shelter in Estepona.
Dogs at the ADANA shelter in Estepona. / ADANA
  • Veterinary practices are remaining open during the state of alarm but appointments must be made by phone or online

One of the exceptions to the Spanish government's tight restrictions on movement during the coronavirus lockdown is for dog walking. However, there is a lack of clarity as to what is allowed. Anything from being 50 to 250 metres from your home, to 20 minutes for a dog to do its necessities are all being reported.

Information given out on town hall websites says only one owner may take the dog and they should carry a bottle of water mixed with detergent to rinse urine from the street as well as bags to pick up faeces, which really goes without saying.

For many dog owners, the enforced lockdown is leading to difficulties in caring for pets and there are fears over a rise in animals being abandoned, either by people who are unable to leave their houses because of illness or fear of contracting the virus when outside.

Scientists have confirmed that there is no evidence that the virus can be passed between domestic animals and humans.

Vets are permitted to stay open but are requesting that people make phone or internet appointments before going, in line with social distancing rules. Spain's veterinary organisation, Organización Colegial Veterinaria Española (OCV), explains on its website that the official guidance is only one person may accompany an animal and that appointments should be for emergencies only.

According to the OCV website around 10,000 vets are still working during the crisis at veterinary practices, on farms, in laboratories and in the food industry.

Animal charities

Animal charities have inevitably been hit hard by the lockdown with shelters closed to the public and adoptions on hold until the emergency is over.

The pressures and concerns regarding the rehoming of animals either locally or abroad as well as main sources of income, including charity shops being closed for four weeks, are being felt by animal charities across Malaga province. Diane McClelland, president of Axarquía Animal Rescue (AAR) said, "the loss of income could be crippling for us."

She explained that as they are reliant on a team of fosterers and volunteers and with no physical shelter, they are unable to take on new animals.

Like AAR, Triple A in Marbella and ADANA in Estepona have had to cancel fundraising events planned for March and early April and with uncertainty as to how long the situation will go on for.

Triple A, which currently has 259 dogs and 282 cats in its shelter, has had to reduce its number of volunteers and has seen a "slight increase" in abandoned animals since the state of alarm was declared. Secretary Jan Weimer said, "Unfortunately, we are unable to help people outside Triple A as we cannot travel by car," and adds that with reduced numbers of volunteers "it is pretty hard to take care of the 600 animals at the shelter".

ADANA has also had to close its shop and shelter to the public, which means dog walking volunteers cannot help out and no visitors means no adoptions. However, they are still taking in animals.

Treasurer Reg Winkworth said, "We have received an official government letter asking us to be readily available to take in the dogs of those people who are in less fortunate situations than ourselves, hospitalised and homeless people who are always vulnerable anyway."

All of the charities are relying on donations being made online and Diane McClelland said that her team are thinking of ways of running fundraisers through the charity's social network sites.