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What to do with the growing numbers of abandoned pets in Madrid?

Law preventing unwanted dogs and cats from being put down means capital’s animal protection center is full

The Madrid animal protection center.
The Madrid animal protection center.

Seven months after Madrid’s regional government introduced legislation banning the authorities from putting down abandoned pets, the capital’s main animal shelter says it is full and cannot accept any more dogs.

Staff at the center, which has room for 200 canines, say that conditions are desperate: “We are practically at 100%. A lot of dogs are old or are seriously ill, and they are suffering from anxiety. We can only admit emergencies, such as animals that have been abandoned. Some dogs we take are being put in cages previously used for pets in quarantine,” says one employee, who asked to remain anonymous.

We knew that it would come to this. The law is fine in principle

Center worker

Madrid’s regional government, headed by the conservative Popular Party’s (PP) Cristina Fuentes, approved a €1.5 million increase in spending for animal-protection centers. “With the current budget we can adapt the center to the new laws. But at the same time we are providing help for associations and local councils to improve their installations,” said a spokesman.

Meanwhile, Madrid City Hall, which is run by the left-leaning Ahora Madrid (Madrid Now) coalition and headed by Mayor Manuela Carmena, says it is working to streamline adoptions and to improve the facilities at the animal shelter. 

At the end of last year, Madrid City Hall opened a new animal adoption booth in Retiro park, and it has launched campaigns on social networks to encourage people to adopt abandoned animals.

Staff at Madrid’s animal protection center say that finding new owners for animals that have often been abused or have other problems takes time.

We are practically at 100%. A lot of dogs are old or are seriously ill

Center worker

The Socialist Party (PSOE) opposition in Madrid City Hall accuses the regional and municipal administrations of passing laws and then not providing the necessary resources to implement them, saying that the capital’s animal shelter is understaffed.

“We knew that it would come to this. The law is fine in principle, but it won’t work without a serious campaign of sterilization and encouraging people to adopt animals. The idea of simply leaving an animal for seven or eight years inside a cage is not working for its well-being,” says an employee at the Madrid animal protection center.

Between 6,000 and 10,000 animals, mostly cats and dogs, are abandoned each year in the Madrid region, according to the regional environment department and the Madrid region’s Federation of Associations for Animal Protection and Defense (Fapam).

Some staff at Madrid’s animal protection center were skeptical about the wisdom of a law that prevents abandoned pets from being put down, noting that Italy tried the same approach several years ago, “and its impact is now being questioned by vets.”

English version by Nick Lyne.

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