Abandoned animals: pandemic has made situation in Portugal “much worse”

The Covid pandemic has taken its toll on Portugal’s cats and dogs, seeing many more abandoned this year than last.

According to a report by Jornal de Notícias, the problem appears to be centred in urban areas, particularly Lisbon, Porto, Setúbal and Leiria.

The “destruction of employment and death of old people in the path of the pandemic” are given as the most likely reasons.

In terms of numbers, JN cited 667 cases flagged by PSP and GNR police between January and August. Last year, the number was ‘below 500’ – and is only a fraction of the ‘true picture’ which sees animals left at the gates of private and municipal refuges, or simply dumped in woodlands.

Lisbon’s ‘municipal animal provider, Maria Quaresma dos Reis’ believes the problem is a direct result of the pandemic. She told JN pets were being abandoned by people who had lost their jobs, or those whose elderly relatives had died of Covid.

Animal associations however are not so sure. Said the paper, SOS Animais, for example, “doesn’t want to make this direct link”.

SIC television news meantime has been talking to the Patudos association which says the number of rescues it has been called out on this year has increased four-fold.

Volunteers are “putting on protective gloves nearly every day to rescue animals left in woods and in situations of abandon”, said the station, suggesting another reason for the spike in strays is that elderly people have moved in with younger relatives (again due to the pandemic) and have had to leave pets ‘behind’.

“Animals are always the first to be affected” in crises, said Olga Silva of association ‘Patudos’.

For Patudos, this year’s case load has been “immense”, she told SIC – and the saddest aspect is that most of the dogs taken in by the refuge are “perfectly domesticated”: “used to sleeping on sofas or in their beds, they don’t chew things or ruin things” but they are suddenly found wandering the streets.

The only ‘good aspect’ is that the pandemic also has seen an increase in the numbers of people adopting strays from refuges as more and more professionals are ‘working from home’, she said.

Another plus point is that cases for animal cruelty have reduced (from almost 600 in the January to August period last year, to just 377 this year).

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