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The Plight Of Spanish Hunting Dogs

Por: | 09 de mayo de 2016

“He who is cruel to animals becomes hard also in his dealings with men. We can judge the heart of a man by his treatment of animals.”

 ― Immanuel Kant (German philosopher)

Annually, at the end of the hunting season, Spanish hunters have been known to lynch their unwanted hunting dogs by suspending the animals just above the ground from trees. Consequently, the canines desperately attempt to find a foothold. Hence, during suffocation, the poor creatures perform a macabre dance of death. The hunters are known to find this amusing and laugh at the dogs being hung to death. They call this annual death ritual, 'Piano Playing'. This is but one example of atrocities committed by the heartless, criminal mindset that taints the Spanish hunting community. However, rarely are criminal prosecutions successfully made against these hunters.


"The situation of dogs used in hunting is very dramatic and serious. We really need to act very quickly –  to educate the state administration, the police, more lawyers and veterinarians to make good reports of cases of animal abuse and protection, and to know the laws that they can link these to... I have found that in many cases of animal welfare allegation – where people have witnessed maltreatment, then (sic) if these cases do get taken up by a lawyer, that in fact (sic) they end up in files stored away and the case is closed, and the animals continue to suffer until they die of hunger, of their wounds or their disease. Or they die from their abuse – from being beaten or hung."

― Raquel López Teruel (specialist animal rights lawyer in Spain)


'Podenco Alliance' and 'Podenco Support South West' based in the United Kingdom, held a peaceful protest and photo campaign, which raised awareness of the dismal abuse meted out to Spanish hunting dogs. Many nationalities joined the protest in London, including Spanish representatives of 'Partido Animalista' (PACMA) and American citizens from 'Emerald City Pet Rescue' based in Seattle. A Facebook group with over 20,500 members called, 'The Million Paw March for Justice' were also represented. Similar events ran in conjunction with the London protest in Manchester, Glasgow and Spain. These followed on from demonstrations in Paris and Gettysburg, USA. More protests against the cruelty to hunting dogs will take place in Germany, Belgium, and the Netherlands in the coming months.


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Demonstrators and their dogs outside the Spanish embassy in London
(click on image to view hi res photo)


The protest march took place in London on 'May Day' (Sunday 1st May 2016) and focused on handing to the Spanish embassy a petition, alongside an extensive photo-card compilation of rescued Spanish hunting dogs. Each photo-card was captioned with an individual statement, briefly describing what had happened to the canines in Spain, before they were finally rescued and transported to a safe haven in Britain. Around, 250 UK-adopted Spanish rescue dog owners sent in their photos and stories for inclusion in the petition supporting Spanish hunting breeds.


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Demonstrators and their dogs outside the Spanish embassy in London
(click on image to view hi res photo)


Protest letters were also delivered, calling for an end to the cruelty, for increased animal welfare education in Spain, as well as the urgent widespread implementation of Spanish and European legislation to protect animals. Further, copies of the petition and photo campaign, were also given to 10 Downing Street; the official residence of the British prime minister, David Cameron.


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Protest organisers hand in their petition to 10 Downing Street
(click on image to view hi res photo)


May Day this year was earmarked for the day of action, because that coincided with the inaugural date of the 'International Day of the Podenco'. This observed commemorative day was designated by an organisation called, 'SOS Podenco Rescue' to raise awareness of podencos, the hunting breed that is abandoned and dies in greatest numbers in Spain, and yet is the least known outside of the Iberian peninsula. The dogs most often hung are the galgos or Spanish greyhounds. Podencos are used for hunting in packs in the more mountainous areas, while the galgos are used for hare-coursing in the flat areas. Podencos and other types of rescued Spanish hunting breeds were represented at the protest. The campaign organisers asked families, who have adopted abandoned Spanish hunting dogs in the UK, to work together and coordinate the event. It pro-actively spotlighted the cruel treatment of podencos, galgos, pointers, setters, Brittany spaniels, and bodegueros. All these breeds are abused in their lives and discarded in their thousands-upon-thousands every year in Spain.


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Rescued galgos and podencos at the demonstration in London
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Rescued podencos march in London
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"The appalling treatment of Spanish Hunting Dogs strikes a chill to the heart; it is impossible to believe that a country as sophisticated and fine as Spain could tolerate such unforgivable cruelty to living creatures. I add my name to the many who are calling for this inhumanity to be stopped once and for all."

― Joanna Lumley, OBE (actress, author and activist)


Joanna Lumley by photographer Rankin
(click on image to view hi res photo)



Beryl Brennan, a long term advocate for the podencos and the galgos, has tried to estimate annual figures for abandoned and killed dogs of the aforementioned breeds. She has looked at the estimated annual figures for uncontrolled breeding of both breeds. Her calculations show the difficulty of getting hold of accurate figures. So many unwanted dogs will be shot by their owners or will die in the kill pounds; dogs 'round the back' that volunteers to the pounds never see. Furthermore, many hunters do not register their dogs as they are legally obliged to do.

In 2009, an organisation called, 'SOS Galgos' based in Barcelona, published on their website that 160 galgos were abandoned every day. That equates to an annual figure of 58,400 galgos abandoned or dumped in perreras (dog pounds) for killing, including reports of galgos hung in olive tree groves.

Figures for cazadores (hunters with galgos or other dogs) or podenqueros (those who specifically use podencos) are difficult to obtain, partly because there does not appear to be one overall federation governing the different hunting associations. However, uncontrolled breeding rates, abandonments and killings are at stratospheric levels.

Podenco Alliance & Future Initiatives


"Our work will focus on education for a cultural shift towards good animal welfare. Education projects will work with Spanish vets and the hunting community on animal health initiatives."

― Polly Mathewson (The Podenco Alliance)

Podenco Alliance hopes for a Spain, indeed a world that is steeped in compassion not cruelty. Alongside, campaigning for changes to the current cultural and legislative system that creates such suffering for hunting dogs, the organisation are planning to promote an educational based version of compassion to the Spanish hunters. Podenco Alliance’s primary aim is to work to help change the root causes that lead to abuse and re-education of animal cruelty offenders might be the key.


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Podenco Alliance members cradling dogs
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Ultimately, branding the hunters as evildoers, will not serve any party involved with resolving the dilemma of animal cruelty. Personally, those hunters that are called evil should be reclassified as mentally disordered offenders, who are presumed ignorant of their actions at best. However, the role of Podenco Alliance and its growing network of colleagues is not to assign fault to the hunters for their own shortcomings, nor do they want to judge them. Equally important, the organisation wants legal justice to prevail for the plight of the Spanish hunting dog. During, the May Day protest in London, Podenco Alliance, Podenco Support South West and a group of 16 supporting organisations called upon the Spanish government to take urgent steps to increase the implementation of existing animal protection laws, to create new laws and to educate for change.


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A podenco named Rosa at the demonstration
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Podenco Alliance, Podenco Support South West and SOS Podenco Rescue support the belief that animals who are victims of neglect, abuse, or abandonment must not also be victims of bureaucracy. Such organisations need help not only in supporting the animals, but in bringing its concerns for their welfare to the attention of the Spanish taxpayer and electorate as well as further afield.  


“You try your best to love the world despite obvious flaws in design and execution and you take care of whatever needy things present themselves to you during your passage through it. Otherwise you're worthless.” 

― Extract from the book called, 'Nightwoods' (2011) by American novelist Charles Frazier


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Rescued Spanish hunting dogs and their owners near Parliament Square in London
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If you want to support these organisations by volunteering, donating, purchasing charitable merchandise or adopting a rescue dog, please contact the appropriate organisation via its social media account listed below:

'Podenco Alliance' aim to help change the root causes that lead to so many unwanted animals experiencing the pain of abuse and abandonment.

If you want to help by donating to 'Podenco Alliance', its PayPal account can be found via this email address: [email protected]. Alternatively, please visit its social media accounts for other ways to donate or volunteer:

Podenco Alliance on Facebook:

Podenco Alliance on Twitter:

'Podenco Support South West' offers support to animal rescue organisations in Spain.

Please visit Podenco Support South West's Facebook account for ways to donate or volunteer:

'SOS Podenco Rescue' is a Spanish charity that rescues Podencos and finds homes for the breed by offering dog adoptions to the public.

Please visit SOS Podenco Rescue's official website for ways to donate, volunteer or adopt a dog:

SOS Podenco Rescue on Facebook:

'The Million Paw March for Justice' on Facebook; its main goal is to raise awareness about the plight of the galgo and podenco breeds in Spain:

'Partido Animalista' (PACMA) is a Spanish political party, who work for the defense of animals, the environment and social justice:

'Emerald City Pet Rescue' based in Seattle (USA) was established in 2013 as a non-profit organisation dedicated to rescuing, nurturing, and rehabilitating homeless and neglected animals:

Thank you to Beryl Brennan of 'Podenco Post' and 'Galgo News' for providing statistics:


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Animal activists with banners at Westminister in London
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Hay 1 Comentarios

Thanks for sharing the article, and more importantly, your personal experienceMindfully using our emotions as data about our inner state and knowing when it’s better to de-escalate by taking a time out are great tools. Appreciate you reading and sharing your story, since I can certainly relate and I think others can too

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