Oundle woman joins march to call for justice for the 'Invisible Dogs of Spain'

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Two-hundred people and 100 Spanish rescue dogs will march from the Embassy of Spain to Trafalgar Square in London on 3 February, demanding an end to hunting with dogs in Spain, where up to a massive 100,000 hunting dogs are cruelly killed or abandoned at the end of the season every year.

Among the march will be Vanessa Munnings of Oundle, near Peterborough, with eight-month-old podenco Pablo, who was found alone and left to starve to death, covered in ticks and fleas, as a tiny puppy, in a dustbin in the Almeria region of Spain.

The podenco and galgo breeds of Spain are not recognised as pets by the country’s animal welfare laws as they are merely regarded as ‘hunting tools’, which has earned these dogs the moniker of ‘the invisible dogs of Spain’.

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This means they have no protection from severe cruelty at the hands of their owners and are often subject to extreme atrocities in their short lives.

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Every February, when the hunting season in Spain ends, Spanish animal rights group Plataforma NAC (www.plataformanac.org) calls for peaceful demonstrations across Europe, demanding an end to hunting in Spain and in particular hunting with dogs.

Many European countries and cities show their support in calling for better treatment for these dogs, many of which have incredible tales of atrocities and neglect. The events all take place annually, on the same weekend. This year, for the first time, the UK will join the protests.

The aim of the march is to raise awareness and draw attention to the plight of the Spanish hunting dogs, calling for them to be included in Spain’s animal welfare laws.

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· It is estimated that 60,000-80,000 podencos and galgos are killed or abandoned in Spain each year. Many believe that figure to be closer to 100,000

· Many of these are young dogs and some will be pregnant or have puppies

· Spain is the only country in the European Union where hunting with these two breeds is still allowed

· Many are treated with extreme cruelty during their lifetime and the ways of killing unwanted dogs are especially cruel, designed often to extend their suffering

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· Illegal breeders and hunters keep entire packs in bunkers, dens, caves and facilities that are difficult to access and meet very little of their needs, which turns them into invisible breeds, excluded from any statistical consideration

· This clandestine activity is possible because society, especially in rural areas, regards these sighthounds as merely hunting tools.

Despite both breeds not being recognised as pets in their native country, podencos and galgos are highly intelligent, easily trainable, very affectionate, and bond closely with their families.

Gemma Eley of Free Spanish Hounds, organisers of the UK march, said: “Our mission is to act against animal abuse, denounce it and spread the word. We aim to make a difference and be the voice of the invisible dogs of Spain.”

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Vanessa, who adopted Pablo from Brighter Days Dog Rescue in Staffordshire, said: “It breaks my heart to think that Pablo was cruelly tossed aside and abandoned - left to die alone in a bin. Heaven only knows what happened to his mum and litter mates.

“It goes to show how little regard is held for these beautiful, gentle dogs by cruel hunters. Pablo is a bright and loving little dog, who has settled into family life and is adored by everyone who meets him.”

To foster a Spanish hunting dog, adopt, sponsor or donate, please contact the below UK-based charities: