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Animals in Aljezur need your help, not your tears!

Animals in Aljezur need your help, not your tears!

AEZA – Associação Ecologista e Zoófila de Aljezur (www.aeza.org)

Faith at the Canil Municipal, Aljezur

To begin, I would like to quote a recent visitor to this area, who said “I didn’t think it would be so foreign” – well it is! The town of Aljezur is on the west coast and although still in the Algarve region of Portugal, it is almost in the next province – the Alentejo. It has a strong Moorish history and the true local inhabitants are small farmers working the land and stock in the old way. They still plough with mules or cows behind a hand plough. The cattle, goats and sheep are attended all day, although recently I have seen herds and flocks in areas fenced off with electric fencing – very modern.

Life is hard and the younger generation, who have received an education, unlike their parents, choose to leave the land for the cities. This lifestyle is too difficult for them. The lives of the working dogs (and cats) are not the same as that of our Northern European pampered pets. They have to work for their keep and they are at the end of the food chain – just above the mice, birds and ants! Hopefully in the correct way, and with respect for the old way of life, some of us are trying to make the lives of the dogs and cats more bearable and at the same time to influence the locals. It takes a lot of time and patience. For example, recently it took me six months to persuade one local fisherman to have his two bitches spayed!

Canil Municipal Aljezur

Those new to the area might think that some animals are treated badly. In my view this is not always the case. The countryman’s perception is different from ours. There is possibly more deliberate and wilful cruelty to animals in Northern Europe where we pride ourselves on knowing the correct way to treat animals. If we see “cruelty” we are looking at it from within our own culture. Don’t be too swift to condemn but try to understand and help in a positive manner. After all, sixty years ago in Britain, our ignorance led us to treat animals in much the same way as we encounter here today.

This brings me to AEZA – Associação Ecologista e Zoófila de Aljezur. A law is in place that all municipalities have to remove dogs who are roaming the streets; hold them somewhere for ten days and then, if no one claims them, they can be put to sleep (unless they are micro-chipped). In our case the local Canil Municipal, (municipal kennel/pound), is temporarily based in adapted farm buildings. All Municipal Kennels are the responsibility of the Municipal vet, whose position over here is comparable to that of a British Environmental Health Officer.

Vasco and Karina caring for dogs at the kennels

In 2001 the Municipal vet in Aljezur was a Portuguese man who had studied in Germany. Unlike many here, he refused to euthanize healthy animals. His solution was to form a charitable association, created from all nationalities in the area, to fund the survival of dogs in the “canil”. The aim of the association was to medicate, spay and castrate; to treat for worms, fleas and ticks and to re-home as many as possible. It has been an amazing success but of course it takes lots of cash! I have been a member since its inception.

Not only do we do this for the dogs in the kennel but we help by funding the neutering of companion dogs in private homes, if the owner is unable to pay. We try to improve the lives of chained dogs by putting them on a running chain and giving them shelter from the elements. We also make sure that they always have food and water available. We fund neutering programmes for feral cats and attempt to find homes for abandoned cats. As with all associations there are only a few of us who actually do anything! I am one of them! To save the suffering of just one animal is a small victory - but worth celebrating.

When I first came to the area, nearly twenty years ago, I often came home in tears after having witnessed starving dogs covered in sores, dying in the street. I saw bitches in season being followed by ten or twelve male dogs waiting their turn – some of them getting killed in the process. In our area now, thankfully, these sights rare.

Can I come with you?

There has been progress but there is still work to do and of course we need money to enable us to continue our quest. You could help us by becoming a member of AEZA or by sending a donation; the majority of our funds are generated in this way. If you are interested, please visit our website (www.aeza.org) for details and, while you are there, ask yourself if you have it in your heart to offer a home to one of our lovely dogs. If this is not possible would you consider sponsoring one?

You may also be interested in visiting this website. It gives a summary of Portuguese “Protection of Animals Law” in English http://www.animallaw.info


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