Surrounded by dirt, with scabies, fungi on the skin and crammed into a shed of a house in rural Santiago de Compostela: this is the “Dantesque scene” in which eight residents of the Galician capital met on August 14 at 78 dogs. An elderly woman and her two children were in charge of feeding them but without providing them with basic hygienic care. The family suffers from Noah’s syndrome, according to the council’s social services. This mental disorder leads to the accumulation of numerous pets without being able to provide them with basic care.
The situation had been known for more than a decade, but the administrations did not intervene. Meanwhile, the stench and constant barking put the neighborhood on the warpath. The eight volunteers, tired of reporting the case without getting the City Council, the Xunta or Seprona to provide solutions, decided to mobilize and managed to rescue the animals with the help of veterinarians, citizen donations and animal protection associations from all over Galicia who welcomed and worthy alternatives for dogs.
The rescue operation began three weeks ago, with the collaboration of the family who, overwhelmed by the situation of their dogs, accepted outside help and allowed the neighbors and a veterinarian to enter the shed. The photos they took of what was found there are harsh. In conditions of zero hygiene and sanitation, in a space in which there was feces, urine and vomit, more than 70 dogs lived crowded together. The animals were sick and dirty: skin and eye problems, “impressive dreadlocks” and bites. Many did not even know how to run because in the shelter they did not have enough space to move. Others suffer from genetic problems due to inbreeding due to uncontrolled reproduction.
When they entered the site, they found seven newly delivered females and another ten pregnant. The first intervention was to deworm the animals and try to heal their wounds. It was not an easy task to catch them, since he was afraid of people. They lived locked up but in the wild. They managed, with effort, to give veterinary attention to about 65 dogs, which allowed their wounds and other problems derived from unsanitary conditions to be treated. One of the priorities was to rescue nine puppies less than two months old and two more than six months old, who were quickly adopted after being vaccinated and neutered.
The eight neighbors contacted animal protection associations throughout Galicia to help them take care of the animals. His transfer was made with private cars, with all the necessary measures to guarantee his well-being. Mission accomplished: currently all dogs are welcomed. “We monitor each one and, with great pride, we see the difference in life they now have. I hope they lose the fear and the wild state that they drag and prevent them from being adopted,” says Pacucha Maceiras, one of the rescuers.
Santiago’s family, now cared for by municipal social services, was left with three males and a female who will have veterinary care and the necessary help to ensure that they live in good conditions. It was the mobilization of those eight neighbors that led the City Council to intervene after more than ten years “looking the other way and throwing balls out,” they protest. Now, with the matter in the process of being resolved, they are demanding resignations and the assumption of responsibilities, in addition to the reimbursement of the 5,000 euros that they managed to collect to pay the expenses of veterinarians and transport of the animals to decent shelters.
The “journey” of these women through the administrations was a “way of the cross” for years, the rescuers denounce. The Galician Animal Welfare Law attributes to the mayors “the highest responsibility” in the defense and protection of domestic animals in their respective municipalities. But the councilor of Santiago, the socialist Xosé Sánchez Bugallo, did not respond to the request of these neighbors to receive them and discuss the matter. The inhabitants of that rural neighborhood of Santiago do not want to reveal their location to avoid problems for the family with Noah’s syndrome and severe socio-economic difficulties. The councilor for Social Policies, Health and the Environment, Milagros Castro, did not agree to meet with them either. And the mayor of Sports and Animal Welfare, Ester Pedrosa, alleged lack of skills.
The Santiago City Council maintained that it did not have the capacity to intervene and that it only takes care of collecting and treating stray dogs. But in this case they were not, they belonged to a family, they lived locked up on private property. “An illogical apology,” Pacucha replies. In 2019, the municipal services, alerted by a report from Seprona, took about twenty dogs from that house to the Bando municipal animal shelter, he says. The civil guards in charge of the Environment, after several neighborhood complaints, made visits to the house and prepared a report that was sent to the Xunta and the City Council. But the only intervention consisted of collecting 20 dogs, while inside the shed of that house the others continued to live and reproduce without basic care.
“Seeing the non-involvement of the political leaders, the desperation of the family and the conditions of the dogs,” these eight neighbors decided to solve the problem. Now they are asking for responsibilities and the resignation of the two councilors who, despite having powers over the environment and animal welfare, did not intervene. They also claim the reimbursement of the 5,004.15 euros spent on veterinary care and the transport of animals to shelters throughout Galicia. They managed to raise the money thanks to collections through social networks, but they consider that the administration must pay it. If they succeed, the eight volunteers will distribute the money among the protectors who welcomed the dogs.
These citizens presented a letter to the City Council 10 days ago recounting their initiative to resolve what they consider to be a public health problem. At the moment, there is still no answer. Municipal officials assure that they alerted the Xunta to act in accordance with regional animal protection legislation. They highlight the difficulty of this case, given the mental disorder suffered by the owner of the house.