I’m going to try to tell you what we do when we rescue a dog from the so-called “perreras” and how they work. This is what we do and how “perreras” work in our region, there can be different ways of doing and working according to the different shelters or associations in Spain.
We have a very limited budget. We try to cover the fixed monthly costs of the pension, with the more or less fixed income we have per month from donations. We always have a greater expense than we have for donations per month, so to cover all we have to put in our own money.
Moreover, there are veterinary expenses: microchip, vaccines, bloodtests and castration. That is a high expense, to meet this standard (without castration) it takes about 120 euros and then the castrations are always above 250 euros depending on the weight of the dog. And this is only if we go to a vet who gives us special discounts because we have been clients with our own dogs for many years. If the dog also requires some treatment, that means more costs. On top of this there are all the antiparasite treatments that must be given regularly.
I wanted to tell you a little bit about all this to give you an idea of how we have to make decisions about which dogs to save and which we are not able to. Those that we save, we do it with the heart, but those we have to say no, we do it with the head because economically it is not possible.
Every time we know that a dog will leave on the next transport, our mind already starts working –thinking about the next dog that we will rescue that can take its place.
Sometimes dogs come to us because someone tells us of a lost dog, from someone who has found it, from someone who no longer wants to take care of their dog, or it is a dog who has been picked up from the people who run the pension where our dogs live. Then according to our situation we decide what to do, it is a difficult decision because if we don’t take the dog it will go to the perrera for sure. The pension our dogs live in for example, serves as a temporary home for dogs that turn up lost in the area, but the owner of the pension is obliged to notify the authorities and they will notify the perrera. As soon as they can pick up the dog it will go to the perrera. Perreras are always overcrowded so it usually takes weeks until they collect a dog, if during that time we have a chance to pick up the dog, we don’t let him go and we take care of him. But it is not always possible…and there have been dogs that after seeing them in our pension we know that they have gone to the perrera, when we have gone to rescue them, they were no longer there…and we do not know what has happened to them.
But many other times we go directly to the perrera to rescue dogs from there. It is an experience that I do not recommend…you leave crying, with your heart broken and with a lot of eyes behind you who have been told: “I will come back for you when I can, I promise”. Although you know that in many cases you won’t be able to do it and that’s terrible.
There are perreras in many cities or large towns in our region. And some of them pick up dogs found or abandoned in small towns. So, they are always overcrowded.
In the perreras they pick up the lost or abandoned dogs, but also the dogs of people who don’t want them and decide to leave them there because they don’t want to take care of them anymore. I can’t imagine the feeling of those poor dogs after living in a house (although I don’t want to imagine the kind of house they lived in that has been able to abandon them in such a cruel way either). If they don’t have a microchip, they are accepted and left there. That’s why many people don’t microchip them, because that way they can leave them without consequences. Or even they take the microchip off, injuring them with a wound in the neck…that’s what hunters do, for example, before abandoning dogs.
I have personally visited three perreras in our region. The houses where they live are too small and very dark. Dogs do not leave the houses. They clean their houses with pressurized water while they are inside. Since there are so many of them, they are often forced to share spaces and there are fights. Other times they don’t even have room to keep them in a house with a roof and they are simply kept in fenced-in spaces with no roof to shelter under. In one of the perreras in our city the “zero sacrifice” is applied, that is to say, no dog will be euthanized except for medical reasons. But what is worse? Spending years of your life without leaving a closed space and without relating to people, dogs or having a normal life? Personally, I don’t know. It’s a choice between death or a painful sentence. But in most cases, after a few days they are directly euthanized.
The staff working there are often hired without feeling anything for the animals, so the treatment is hard and distant. We cannot talk about abuse because we have not witnessed it, but we imagine it.
When ou walk past those houses, it’s terrible. Many throw themselves at the fence barking to get your attention, others with aggression because they cannot contain their anger and frustration, others stay in a scared corner even fearing that you will enter, others wag their tails happily and asking you to take them with them, and others just tremble…all those emotions and looks is what you take with you when you go, when you try to see without looking… The dogs are extremely dirty, most of them are sick. It is impossible to imagine how terrible the smell is. The smell there is something you can’t forget.
The dogs are not attended by veterinarians in the perrera, the only get the rabies vaccine which is compulsory and sometimes even that is not the case. But they don’t receive treatment or care for anything they suffer from. They are plenty of ticks and fleas usually. And internal worms. So we have to start all the process, bathing and antiparasitic treatment.
How do we make the decision to take ones instead of the other ones? According to what we can take care of at that time and looking for the survival of the association. If we fail in this project, everyone who could be helped would lose. It’s difficult and hard and a task no one wants to do. But some of us must go in there and make these terrible decisions.
The people who work there don’t know much about dogs, nor do they have time to relate to the dogs. Sometimes what the staff tells you about the dogs is not true and when you get them out of the perrera the real work of getting to know them begins. Then we have to find out how they behave and how they relate to others.
In spite of this we always try to gain the trust of some workers who do like the dogs and we contact him/her so that he/she informs us about the dogs that are there, how they are and to give us some more information. As it is so hard to go inside the perrera over time we have managed to get this “trusted” person to send us photos or videos of some dogs and we choose from all of them only with that information and pics without entering the perrera. It’s always a risk because when we pick them up we don’t really know which kind of dog we are taking.
But it is very difficult, there are so many… you always keep in your heart the one dog you didn’t choose and maybe it won’t be there anymore next time you can take out some more.
We try to take out difficult cases, dogs that we know will never have a chance inside the perrera, because no one will notice them or it will be years before someone does or decides to euthanize them. But there are also cases of dogs that have been returned again and again because they did not meet the expectations of the person who took them and we know that they will only get worse there. We try to find a balance between the cases that will mean more work for us but that we know have no chance there and we can help them. But we also try to fit the character of the new ones with the ones we already have so that they can share if possible a house, games and walks.
The bureaucratic process to adopt at the perreras is not really complicated. So many dogs are given to unscrupulous people, hunters and often they are returned the next day because they no longer like the dog. For us it is not really complicated either, they simply have our Association data and when we want to adopt a dog it is simply signing the papers to put the dog in our name and go and get it. Many times the most difficult thing is to go and fetch the dog. Finding the time of our work that coincides with the perrera’s schedule in which they can attend to you and then take them out of there is sometimes not at all easy. The dogs don’t know us and we have to put them in a cage, we bathe them and then their new life begins, they start to recover the dignity they never should have lost.
That way, maybe you’ll understand why it is so touching and important for us when we see our dogs in a family, happy and enjoying life, because we still remember the day when we went to rescue them, jumping crazy into a house, frustrated and uncontrolled and all the process and work after…they have lives of kings and queens by your side!!
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