Animals always have been and always will be perfect companions in life. They show us their love every day, they are loyal to us through good times and bad and cheer us up when we need it. They are always there for us and all they ask in return is basic care and at least half the amount of affection that they show to us humans.
Even so, many people - and unfortunately in increasing numbers - are abandoning their pets, using some excuse to no longer look after their furry friend. These pets then face an uncertain future. Some roam the streets, others die from lack of food or extreme temperatures, some are put to sleep, and some who are luckier end up in a place like the Parque Zoosanitario, which is run by a company called Animal Domus and covers the Torremolinos, Fuengirola and Mijas areas.
This centre cares for, protects and finds new homes for animals and in the three years it has been open not one has been sacrificed. This is a very significant achievement, and the staff hope that one day it will become the norm instead of being news.
"The law still endorses the sacrifice of animals, all the shelters do it. We decided to work on the zero sacrifice policy (an initiative from the head of the centre, veterinary surgeon Javier Delgado) and aim for the best possible social wellbeing for the animals. We have achieved it, but it is very difficult," says Jennifer Haro, the manager.
At present just three people (apart from cleaning and maintenance staff) run the Parque Zoosanitario, which currently houses over 20 dogs, six cats and several domestic birds, all of different breeds, sizes and ages, that are waiting to be adopted. Jennifer and her colleagues Yeneva Martínez and Lorraine Macías are three young women who love animals and spend every day of the week caring, cleaning, feeding, protecting and monitoring the health of the ones in their care.
And no, this is not an easy job to do because every day they experience the reality of animals being abandoned and the arrival of new ones needing a home, most of them domestic pets.
"Most of our animals have been brought here by their owners for their own reasons, which I won't go in to here," says Jennifer, indignantly. "Some people love dogs when they are little puppies but then when they get bigger they don't want them any more. They say they are going to move somewhere else and they won't be able to have a dog there... a lot of people aren't being honest with us, but in the end our obligation is to take the animals in and look after them."
However, the work at the Parque Zoosanitario isn't the same as an animal refuge: its purpose is to try to find new homes for abandoned pets. Last year they successfully rehomed over 100 animals, but it involved a long process of publicity and looking for suitable candidates because the number of animals arriving at the centre keeps growing.
Not all the animals are brought in by their owners; the girls are also responsible for picking up strays or responding to information about animals which have been abandoned, and not only dogs and cats either: they have also taken in rabbits, horses, ferrets and even foxes. And something of which very few people are aware: they also remove the bodies of dead animals from the streets, at the request of the Local Police forces.
In the case of cats, some are brought in by their owners and others are found in the street. With the strays, because they are not domesticated, the girls have them neutered and then try to relocate them in cat colonies where they can lead a better life.
All this results in long working days, all in the hope that these animals can be found the home they deserve and which many people are not able to give them.
This is why Fuengirola council, one of the three which collaborate with the Parque Zoosanitario, has begun a campaign to encourage people to adopt a pet, to try and support the zero sacrifice initiative.
How will this work? If someone adopts an animal the council will pay the veterinary fees including the cost of the microchip, animal passport, neutering and the first anti-rabies vaccine, worming and flea treatments. This is an important support and could make a great deal of difference.
Animal Domus also posts details of those waiting for adoption on Facebook and Instagram and has also launched a volunteer programme, so that from Mondays to Saturdays animal lovers can come and take the dogs for a walk, which is something very important for them.
Every little helps, when the aim is to give an animal the best possible quality of life.