An Estepona animal charity has taken on the task of planning, building, setting up and running its own non-profit veterinary clinic in the Costa del Sol town.
Asociación Gatos y Amigos (AGYA) decided to open its own centre after analysing the huge costs every year of taking the animals it helps to other vets. Now the association has been helping cats - and dogs on occasions - at its own clinic since July.
"AGYA decided to open a non-profit veterinary clinic due to the large amount of money we were paying for local vet services," said Sheila Watkins of AGYA. "We were lucky enough to find premises and there were no other vets in the area."
The journey from coming up with the idea of a non-profit clinic to opening it was a challenging one. AGYA had to apply for a licence and get architects to draw up the plans, as their idea for the site was to split it into two halves.
"One side would be for feral, abandoned, accident-stricken cats or cruelty cases," said Wilkins.
"The other would be for our private, fee-paying clients. The profits [from these clients] would be used to fund the clinic," she explained.
AGYA currently has some 50 cats in its care, the animals being given refuge for different reasons. Some cats are in long-term recovery, with two needing surgery; others having been through TNR (trap-neuter-release); and some 300 domesticated cats and kittens have also been taken in and then later rehomed.
With 60 feeding stations and 150 feline colonies covering Estepona, Casares and Manilva, the volunteers at AGYA have a tough task at hand, and they need to purchase around 3,500 kilos of food every month.
The cost is covered thanks to donations to the charity-run clinic, as well as receiving food from collection points outside local supermarkets.
"Each day we treat about ten feral cats and about 25 domesticated animals, including dogs. During the breeding season, we go out and trap colonies of cats," Wilkins said. "We treat [the dogs] medically, if necessary, and then take them to [Estepona-based dog charity] Adana."
They are also talking to local town halls about what part they can play in allowing AGYA to deal with the animals more easily.
"We have approached Estepona, Casares and Manilva to establish a TNR protocol, because on average we neuter about 1,500 feral cats a year," explained Wilkins.
"These things take time, and we hope to eventually have a sanctuary to place feral and abandoned domesticated cats needing special care," she added.