The Horrors of the Spanish Hunting Dogs
I have touched on it briefly several times, including in yesterday’s post about the Galgo Espanol: the Spanish hunting dogs have to endure very cruel circumstances – not only during but also after the hunting season.
Which dogs are hunting dogs?
The majority of Spanish hunters own a number of dogs, mainly a combination of Podencos and Galgos. At the start of the hunting season each hunter could own up to 20 dogs, but towards the end of the hunting season sometimes only as little as 5 remain.
Before the hunting season
Before the hunting season starts, the hunting dogs are trained by the galgueros (hunters). These training methods include tying the dog behind a moving car, increasing in speed and the dogs need to keep up to make them as fast as possible. In the hunt for hares two dogs are expected to chase a hare, with the one that gets closest to it winning the challenge. Speed is therefore of the essence. A dog that repeatedly loses is deemed a “dirty” dog and an embarrassment to its owner, and is quickly disposed of.
During the hunting season
During and between the hunting seasons, the hunting dogs are kept in despicable conditions, on the brink of starvation. Traditional beliefs have it that hungry dogs make better hunters, therefore they hardly ever get fed during the week, ready for the hunt on Sundays. If they do get fed, it is often just a lump of dry, moldy bread or other non-nutritional leftovers. The dogs don’t get much human contact, and definitely no affection. There are many of them cramped into small, dark spaces or chained up on too short a chain. Veterinary care is rarely given, any medical issues are either “resolved” by the galgueros themselves, or the dog is killed.
The following video was filmed by Peter Koekebakker of Animal in Need and is published here with his permission. It gives a bit of insight into the way the Spanish hunting dogs are kept.
Of course it is not legal to treat dogs in this way. Not even in Spain. To keep dogs in circumstances like the ones seen in the video, without food and water, is an offense. So why are nearly 200,000 galgueros getting away with it?
The politicians and police officials in charge are amongst the people who enjoy hunting and keep their dogs in those facilities. Therefore no action is taken, even if someone was to report this to the police.
What happens after the hunting season?
After the hunting season, dogs that are older than 3-4 years old or dogs that have not performed up to standard, are disposed of. Bitches suitable for breeding are sometimes kept for that purpose. The galgueros sell dogs between themselves, so puppies equal money.
The unwanted Galgos and Podencos are often inhumanely killed at the end of the hunting season. After a life of starvation and neglect, they can be drowned, shot, poisoned or set on fire. As a form of entertainment to mark the end of the hunting season, Galgos especially are sometimes hanged from a tree. The dogs will be tied up around their neck, with their back feet still touching the ground, so that they have to fight to support themselves and stay alive.
Being murdered in this way is a slow process, during which the dog has time to experience panic, anxiety, despair and pain. This act of hanging is referred to by the hunters as “piano playing” or “the typewriter”, based on the movements the dogs make. The suffocation can take hours.
Despite the fact giving your dog a microchip is now mandatory in Spain, the chips are often cut out of the dog before the dog is killed. This means the dog’s owner can never be found, and thus never punished…
The dogs that are not killed, are heartlessly dumped. As if that is not bad enough, sometimes the galgueros run over the dogs they dump, just to make sure they will not make their way home. The lucky ones get found before they die and taken to a shelter. But even then they are not out of danger. If the dogs end up in a so called “killing station”, there is a danger these dogs are still destroyed if no one claims them within 10 days.
I will write more about these killing stations in a future post.
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