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Desperate Help For Shelter in Spain


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I’m in desperate need of some advice regarding an animal shelter in Spain that houses around 60 dogs, and that is in desperate need of help/advice. Here’s some background on the situation…


I lived and worked in Spain for just under for years near Barcelona. For the last year I was there, I volunteered weekends at a shelter in a place called Cubelles. When I first started there, it was run by 2 old women, 2 sisters. They are absolutely crackers, and the dogs were kept in dismal conditions. They were never allowed to socialise, all kept in their outdoor cages, until the volunteers came at weekends to walk them. Even then, the volunteers were not allowed to help clean because the crazy women would shout that their jobs were being taken away (?!) The water bowls were green, and the food was atrocious. Usually they would be given mashed up bread and water. There were faeces everywhere, and the dogs were rarely given medical attention. I heard that many died alone in their cages, in pain and suffering.


Now, the land that the shelter is built on is private land that belongs to a “lady” called Balbina. She had started the shelter around 30 years ago, and during these 30 years, she had built up such a bad reputation that nobody would go anywhere near the shelter, including vets, volunteers, larger organizations etc There have been numerous petitions to close the shelter down over the years. But attempts were always thwarted because this woman has a lot of friends in high places. In short, she was breeding dogs and selling them under the guise of an animal shelter. In addition, the money that came in through donations and the grants she received from the government, she kept herself. At one point, she was one of the richest landowners in the area. Many dogs died from the conditions they were kept in, and I’ve heard many dark, sad stories about what has gone on there over the years.


Anyway, her two sidekicks are the 2 crazy old women. Although breeding no longer went on there, all money coming into the shelter was kept and controlled by Balbina. Nothing was given to the welfare of the dogs, and often the volunteers had to go begging outside the supermarket for food. Medical attention – forget it. So this created a vicious circle of nobody donating/helping because it was kept by her, and so the dogs just got worse. In addition, weird things happened such as her not allowing certain dogs to be adopted, almost like they were possessions. I think it’s worth pointing out that she never visited the shelter, just lived nearby in her massive house (that is also full of dogs in horrific conditions) whilst the two crazies “took care” of the dogs in the shelter.


Anyway, a massive change happened around 9 months ago. All of a sudden, in came 2 new people to run the shelter, Elena and Ruben. The change was instant. I became more involved and together, the three of us created a new association under another name, Alphadog. We registered the charity as being run from the same location, but we had our own bank account. Under a new name and new management, we hoped that the stigma of Balbina would be overcome and that people could see how passionate we were about the welfare of the animals. I worked full time and so when I could, I did the admin/fundraising/networking side, whilst Elena and Ruben went to the shelter day after day for daily care of the dogs and for adoptions. For the first time, the cages were clean, the dogs received proper food and medical care. In addition, slowly but surely, the dogs were socialised to the point that they were able to run around in massive groups, the change was absolutely magical to see, all done by the love and commitment of these 2 people. Adoptions increased rapidly and new volunteers came on board. Stands were set up and events were planned…..


However, the downside to all this was that the land/shelter was being rented from Balbina, and she wanted 1,000 EUR in rent every month. The situation in Spain is dire, and people don’t have money to give, so no money was coming in to pay the rent AND pay for the welfare of the dogs. Despite great efforts, there was simply not enough time to establish ourselves in order to raise enough money at such short notice. We did find more land that cost 250 EUR per month, around 14 hectares of open space, but the red tape and money involved in building a shelter there was impossible once we looked into it. The way it works in Spain, laws on animal cruelty are almost non-existent and rarely enforced, and large organisations such as the RSPCA don’t exist there. There are a few organisations, but none on the scale of the RSPCA and nowhere near the same level of national support. Usually, the police are the worst culprits!


Unfortunately, for personal reasons, I had to come back to the UK in November and my involvement has been sporadic, but they keep me updated on the progress of the shelter. I found out this week that they are months behind on the rent and so they have to leave. In addition, Elena has had her house repossessed and hasn’t had any income since starting at the shelter, she is supported by her partner who works long hours. Ruben is originally from Bolivia and has been living in worse conditions than the dogs, squatting in a flat without gas or electric, yet he still gets up at 5am every morning to make the 90 journey to the shelter.


Obviously, Balbina could let them run the shelter free of charge because they are actually taking the responsibility from her! But no, the money grabbing with that she is, she would rather it fall back into the hands of the 2 crazies (which is what is going to happen). Its absolutely breaking my heart, and the guilt I feel is unbelievable as I feel like I abandoned them. I’m considering going back, but I have nothing, no money, no job to go back to. I also have pets of my own.


So my reason for posting here is for any advice on what I can do? Are there any international organizations that may help? Can I start a media campaign against the witch? I thought about fundraising here in the UK, but I don’t know the legalities of how this would work?


Here are some photos/videos from their Facebook page:






Videos (especially look at the one that’s 03:13 mins long where they are being socialised, its amazing )





They are really desperate; it can’t go back to how it was before…. Can anybody suggest anything??


Thanks so much


---------- Post added 19-02-2013 at 10:32 ----------


To the moderators


Could this be moved into the General section to see if a wider range of people could perhaps advise me?



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Maybe it could help if they were adopted in the UK.


I know in some cases, animal associations get the pet passport and then sometimes adoptees pay for pet transport to the UK? (about 60/80 EU), in any case, it opens the possibility to some people that cannot afford fees like £150 or more upfront from a rescue here...


This is just an idea ;)


About the fundrasing, i think you can fundraise freely for any organization you wish to help. You can organize an event, ask the organization maybe for posters, if done at supermarkets, etc.

It would be good to raise awareness about the situation of dogs in Spain, because it is dire and they are soo gentle, balanced dogs, even after so much neglect. I have seen this first hand, in Spain :)

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