By: NATASHA SMITH
ONE OF the saddest trends at this time of year is the giving of pets as Christmas gifts but a leading animal protection association is urging people to think again before adopting a practice it says is unfair.
Thousands of pets are abandoned each year after being given as presents, only for the new owners to find the responsibility too overwhelming.
Miguel Moutinho, president of the ANIMAL protection association, told The Resident that this was one of the leading causes of the dire animal abandonment problem in Portugal.
“You have to make sure the person is very prepared for looking after a pet. The best advice I can give is do not give them as presents”, he said. “Part of the problem derives from people thinking that animals are dispensable and it is not fair: it’s not right to treat them this way.”
Without knowing whether the person is emotionally and financially capable of looking
after pets, Moutinho said the outcome can be terrible. “It really is the worst idea to give them as presents this Christmas.”
In many ways, an innocent, well intentioned gift can lead to animal cruelty. Part of ANIMAL’s mission is to raise awareness about animal cruelty in society, both in the native and international communities in the Algarve and Portugal.
“I have had countless letters from the international community expressing their profound shock over the acts of cruelty that they have witnessed”, said Moutinho.
“The current laws are vague and inadequate”, he said adding “they are difficult to apply and there is lots of bureaucracy”. He also said that there was a problem with the authorities taking cases of animal cruelty seriously.
“Next year, we are planning many initiatives and continuing with existing projects including presenting a proposal to the government to change the legislation to provide more protection for animals”.
Considering that schools are among the most important places to encourage animal protection, he said that he is eager to come to the Algarve to give seminars in the international schools, as well as state schools.
According to Moutinho, ANIMAL is keen to establish a non-profit animal sanctuary in Lisbon, with the prospect of expanding to other regions, including the Algarve.
As part of this plan, ANIMAL is endeavouring to set up a mobile veterinarian unit that will travel the length of the country to treat sick animals. People who cannot afford medical pet bills would benefit and the units would also treat abandoned animals.
Moutinho said: “Animal cruelty can only change when peoples’ attitudes change and with stronger legislation and more awareness, this may be possible but we must be united”.
For more information about ANIMAL, please visit www.animal.org.pt (site available in English).
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