A Cruel Side to the Canary Islanders – Abandoned Cats and Dogs on Tenerife

Posted: September 7, 2009 in animals, Life, Spain, Tenerife
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Generally I find Canarios to be warm, friendly, welcoming people. It’s one of the attractions of living here that when you walk down the street the faces you see are open and smiling as opposed to the grim, head down against the weather look I remember from Stockport. However, there is one quality displayed by some Canarios which both infuriates and saddens me and that is their attitude towards animals, or more specifically the attitude towards animals who have outlived their usefulness.

I’m not one of those  naïve townies who suffers an attack of horrified indignation when I see farmers, or goatherds etc seemingly treat their animals roughly. I am a townie, but there are farmers in our family and I grew up seeing animals being treated with a firm hand. I’m talking about something completely different .

Not so long ago I watched a programme on a national Spanish TV channel where the presenter was interviewing a Tinerfeño hunter who had just taken a dog which wasn’t working out as a rabbit catcher into the hills where he dumped it. The guy explained that he wasn’t actually dumping the dog, he was letting him go so that someone else would take him in and he’d live happily ever after. What a load of old bollocks. This was how he justified his cowardly actions; he obviously just didn’t have the balls to take the dog out back and shoot it (not that I want anyone to do that particularly, but hopefully you get my point).  It was a case of out of sight, out of mind.

Unfortunately, this isn’t an isolated incident. It’s not uncommon to see mangy, desperately thin dogs scrounging around in Tenerife’s forests. I’ve even encountered packs of them up there from time to time.

How Could Anybody Dump Something Like These?

How Could Anybody Dump Something Like These?

Dumping animals and hoping that someone else takes responsibility for them isn’t only confined to canines as we know only too well from personal experience living beside a cat sanctuary. Our neighbour, Marlene, was exasperated by the amount of cats dumped; sometimes up to 90 a month. To be fair, plenty of people brought their unwanted cats and kittens to the sanctuary during the day even though some of the men could be annoyingly stupid (covering their own groins and making ouch noises when Marlene suggested that they should have their cats neutered and then not actually taking her advice).

The ones I would really like to get hold of are the cowardly ones who come in the middle of the night when there’s no-one around and dump kittens in the vicinity of the sanctuary (people’s gardens, the golf course, the golf course car park), again hoping someone else takes responsibility. This happens with annoying regularity. Jesús, our ex-neighbour, caught a young couple doing this one night with a sick kitten which was in a bad way – something which they didn’t want to deal with. He nursed the kitten most of the night , but when he woke in the morning it was dead on his chest. Jesús was distraught, but I’m sure the young couple felt a lot better that they didn’t have to witness the kitten’s demise.

This weekend I watched another neighbour, Jessica cry her eyes out as I moved a dead kitten with a badly mangled leg from behind some bags of compost where it had dragged itself to die. It had turned up from somewhere over the weekend, but with the state its leg was in, I’m willing to bet it was dumped, especially as another kitten appeared the following day (there’s usually always more than one), albeit alive and well… for the time being.

This dumping of animals which are sick or unwanted is a cowardly act and demonstrates a childish avoidance of  responsibilty – the people who do it are simply doing a ‘Pontius Pilate’ by passing their ‘problem’, usually caused by a lack of common sense in the first place, onto someone else.
The lucky ones end up in one of the island’s animal sanctuaries, where caring, selfless people try make life that little bit easier for these poor, frightened abandoned creatures. However, these sanctuaries are perpetually over worked and suffer from a severe lack of funding.

If you live on Tenerife, or even if you don’t, and would like to know how you can provide support, Tenerife Dogs is a fabulously interesting site which mixes sobering information with amusing anecdotes and tales (should that be tails?) to raise the plight of these poor little animals who suddenly find themselves unwanted. It also keeps readers up to date with ways in which they can help.

Finally, if by some chance anyone reading this is one of those people who have dumped a cat or a dog then do the decent thing and read Tenerife Dogs to find out how to make a donation and at least make some atonement for your past actions.

  1. Stephen says:

    A well written article and one that I can really relate to, however it is not just the Canarian’s that cause these problems.

    The many different nationalities that find their way to and through Tenerife (and I guess the other islands) often take on an animal and then abandon it when they need to move on and are unwilling to take the animal with them.

    This is why all of our Animal Rescue Organisations are full to the brim at the moment.

    I remember asking one person if they would consider leaving their son or daughter behind because of the price of their flight ticket – it didn’t go down too well, but surely its the same thing?


  2. dragojac says:

    Good point, Stephen.

    Someone else told me exactly this just the other week.

  3. Sylla says:

    Many other countries are the same …Greece, Turkey even the UK …I knew a couple who took in abandoned dogs some dumped at their gate…funded completely from their own pocket …..And a Turkish relation of mine runs a dog charity in Turkey….

  4. dragojac says:

    It’s terribly sad for sure.

    Even as I type, there’s a desperately thin kitten crying in our neighbour’s garden – another dumped victim. What really annoys me is that many of the people who do the dumping refuse to have their ‘mature’ cats neutered, so this particular problem will never end and each time there’s a new litter, they simply dump them again.

    I’ve even had an old Canarian woman try to thrust a box of kittens into my hands as I got out of my car and then be amazed when I told her she’d have to take them away.

    She behaved as though I was being unreasonable – after all, I live beside a cat sanctuary, so by association should have also accepted unwanted kittens in her view!!!

  5. Mikey says:

    An excellent article and very accurate. I work at the K9 kennels and you never know what is going to greet you when you arrive on a morning. It might be a dog tied to the gate or a box of puppies or kittens. Sometimes you will recognise the dog, as you had to decline him from his owner the day before because we were full to capacity! Many of those abandoned at the kennels have been left there by their owners since the previous afternoon. They will hang around off the beaten track and wait for the team to leave the premises for the day and then just dump them. I was going to give a few examples but tears are already not far off so I will give it a miss. Many of the Canary Islanders are bad but there are many brits also who need to hang their heads in shame.

    • dragojac says:

      Thanks Mikey. Your comments all sound horribly familiar. It is heartbreaking to witness. Some of the volunteers who work at the cat sanctuary here can seem quite offhand with people, but having seen what they have had to deal with over the past few years I can fully understand why. They aren’t exactly exposed to the best of human nature.

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