From animal lovers to animal lovers

1 – Near to where I live, there are two stray dogs that are being fed by a Portuguese family. They have provided two bowls for food and water, which are positioned on the pavement outside their house. One of the dogs has been there for about four years and is well known. The other, wearing a collar, appeared about two months ago. I regularly drop food off to the dogs after having gained permission from the house owners.

Recently, I was putting food into the bowl when a woman, passing in her car, wound down the window and proceeded to inform me that it was an offence to feed stray dogs and that she was aware that I was feeding them and, therefore, the dogs became my responsibility. The implication being, I suppose, that she would report me if I continued and that I could be prosecuted. Here lies the problem –I have been feeding dogs in various places for quite some time, as I know both Portuguese and foreign residents do all over the Algarve. How do we stand? Is this an enforceable law? And, if so, has anyone ever been prosecuted? If this were the case, quite a few animals that are fed at the moment would find themselves abandoned, yet again! Certain charities provide food for individuals to feed animals – what is their position in this case? I have even seen police officers feeding animals in the street –are they to be prosecuted too? Charities in the Algarve do the best they can, but they are always overloaded and, therefore, cannot take in every animal. Where are these dogs to go? The strange thing was that this very law abiding woman stopped at a nearby building plot and proceeded to load the boot of her car with building materials. Not a crime, of course! Feeding animals appears to be a greater one!

Marie Bullman

2 – As an animal owner and regular reader of your publication, it was with keen interest that I noted your article concerning animal poisoning that featured several months ago (October 1 and November 26 editions). While I am sure that this letter will only be a small cry for help within the huge spectrum of animal cruelty, it would comfort me to know that, if published, your readers take heed from my comments and learn from our experiences. First and foremost, it is important for me to convey how much I love and respect this country. As a UK ex-pat, I am endeavouring to learn the language and indeed live by the rules of Portugal. I appreciate that we are to be labelled as ‘foreigners’ forever more and, with this in mind, attempt to abide by the laws of the land whether they be official jurisdiction or simply local custom and practice. It is with great disappointment, therefore, that this sense of loyalty is not reciprocated. It seems that our pets are considered as vermin and should be poisoned. Within the last two weeks, our three dogs have been poisoned seven times. One has died and the other two have surprisingly survived. Friends and neighbours have not been so lucky – five other dogs have been killed. This all seemed to start when we were told that our dog had been chasing a local farmer’s chickens. While unproven, we took it very seriously. Clearly, if true, we cannot be responsible for destroying a local man’s livelihood. To that end, we took precautions by chaining the dogs up or taking them for accompanied walks. Shortly after our vigilance campaign commenced, the poisoning attack started. My neighbours’ two dogs were killed, eight cats were found dead and our dogs were badly poisoned but survived. As if that was not warning enough, our dogs were again poisoned on the following three consecutive days. As we had been keeping such a close and watchful eye, it seemed unusual that this was still happening. In an attempt to explore the matter further, we scanned the area around our house within a 50-metre radius. This search revealed more dead animals and meat placed under a bush covered in a suspicious looking substance. When one of our dogs finally disappeared and was presumed dead also, we searched again only to find yet more fresh meat and substance secreted within the immediate locality. We showed the meat to one of our Portuguese friends who told us that it was covered in a pesticide that had been banned in this country for more than 10 years. I could not grasp the spelling of the substance but gather that its use was to aid pest control on orange trees. Initially pointing towards the hunters, one can now only presume that this is a malicious and targeted attack. My plea to the Portuguese locals is to stop this. We have responded to the complaints and have attempted to control the situation, so why continue with this cruel punishment? In conclusion, the advice that I aim to give to other dog and cat owners is to keep a watchful eye over your pets at all times. Don’t let your dogs roam free in open countryside. If living near farm land, do not allow them to enter the vicinity. Keep them on a lead if you are walking in a new place. Such is this cruelty and heartache that, if I was to have my time again, I would not own or keep any pets; they should not be subjected to such brutality. We can take care of ourselves, but they are less able to do so.

Rachel Robinson

By email

The Resident asked José Kersten and Marius Donker, of Action Against Poisoning, to give their comments on the matter:

We have to say that animal poisoning reflects an impassive attitude towards domestic and stray animals. The culprits get away with it as poisoning is a stealthy act and animal protection law enforcement has a low priority anyway. Hunters are notorious for clearing their territory with poison. When we recently walked our dogs, we asked a poacher to collect his bird traps and explained why migrants should be left alone. Three days later, we walked into a minefield of poisoned chicken legs. We see that poisoning is also used as a solution for neighbour nuisance and stray problems. We know that dogs barking through the night evoke a fierce anger that, however, should be aimed at their owners. We advise pet owners to avoid this or any other kind of nuisance and – if things go wrong – to express their concern to their neighbours. We are sickened by poison massacres of stray animals as these abandoned animals have nowhere to go. For some unfathomable reason, legally protected domestic animals lose this protected status as soon as they are thrown out. Protecting and sponsoring wild and domestic animals, including cattle, EU legislation turns a blind eye on stray animals. We know where that leaves us in Portugal as we have been informed that the feeding of stray animals is an offence. Hopefully, this is a symptom of temporary local insanity. It also reflects the public disregard for animal welfare, avoiding costs for disease prevention, let alone sterilisation and discarding animals when they become ill or wounded. It should be noted that wild animals can care for themselves and domestic animals are cared for by their owners. Stray animals are (the offspring of) abandoned animals that have been bred as pets and consequently depend on people for shelter, food and medical care. So this is the most vulnerable category of animals, in highest need of human support. Private persons spend their love and money, mostly on staggering veterinarian bills to clear this mess. They need vast support from their local authorities, not their obstruction.

Visit for information on animal poisoning. Marius Donker and José Kersten can be contacted on [email protected]