Living in their own excrement or forced to drink fetid water in frozen kennels: this is the grim life for Spain’s hunting dogs, according to an investigation by animal rights groups published on Thursday.
Video footage taken in 29 kennels across the country showed the unkempt dogs chained up and left by their owners.
As Spain’s Animal Welfare Law was poised to come into law, AnimaNaturalis and CAS International published their findings on Thursday, urging the government to include hunting dogs in the legislation.
The ruling Socialist government wants to introduce an amendment which will exclude these dogs from the legislation on the grounds that the existing law gives them sufficient protection.
Investigators claimed at the end of the hunting season in February, between 50,000 and 80,000 of these dogs were abandoned or were even hanged when they were no longer of any use.
Aida Gascón, director of AnimaNaturalis, said: “What we see (from our investigation) are not isolated cases or (cases that) contravene legislation. It is the daily and legal reality in which hunting dogs live their miserable lives.
“That hunting groups and some politicians continue to insist that these animals are sufficiently protected by current legislation is not only a fallacy, but negligence. All dogs suffer equally, regardless of the use made of them.”
As part of the campaign by the animal rights activists, a red bus toured Madrid this week with a picture of a hanged dog next to a picture of Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez.
Spain’s government argues the legislation relates to pets not working animals like hunting dogs, police animals, farm livestock or fighting bulls.
It means pets are considered sentient beings which means they can no longer be seized, mortgaged, abandoned, mistreated or removed from one of their owners in the case of a separation or divorce.
The government’s proposed change to the law has proved politically divisive, with some allies of the minority left-wing coalition vowing to oppose the Socialists’ proposed change to the law.
Íñigo Errejón, of the Más País, a left-wing party, said his party would not back the amendment if the government excluded hunting dogs.
“The PSOE has made a mistake and has to rectify it because hunting dogs must have the same rights as the rest,” he told Servimedia news agency.
Emiliano García-Page, regional Socialist president in Castilla la Mancha in central Spain, where hunting is a popular pastime, supported the government’s stance.
He claimed only Spain’s 17 regional authorities had the legal right to regulate animal welfare.
García-Page dismissed as “cheap demagoguery” the idea that hunting was only for “rich millionaires”.
The Spanish Royal Hunting Federation (RFEC) was approached for a comment by Euronews but did not reply.
In a recent statement, the RFEC said the government’s proposed amendment was “very positive”.
The organisation also disputed claims by animal rights groups about the number of hunting dogs which are abandoned.