Show that you care this Christmas .jpg

Show that you care this Christmas

“YOU WILL find us, just follow the directions, when you get close, you will hear the dogs barking,” I was assured on the telephone.

After coming off the A22 at the Almancil/Quarteira exit, I took all the recommended turns and sure enough I was guided down a long, rough road by the sound of barking.

I had arrived at Canil de São Francisco de Assis in Loulé, the Algarve’s oldest and arguably the largest shelter for abandoned animals, run by the Associação dos Amigos dos Animais Abandonados (AAAA), which is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year.

The shelter is open to the public between 10am and noon and 3pm and 5pm on Tuesdays and Fridays, for those interested in adopting an animal.

These are also the designated times for bringing in animals that have been found abandoned or who need a new home. On average, 20 dogs and between five to eight cats are brought in every week. Yet today, only one person visits looking to home an animal.

The AAAA is chaired by Lieselotte Clauberg-Kranendonk, its German expatriate co-founder, who has lived in the Algarve for over 30 years. Together with four other dedicated volunteers, Lieselotte set up the AAAA in 1981.

She gives her time voluntarily to manage the shelter and oversee the running of the association and is assisted by six paid Portuguese employees and eight volunteer fundraisers.

The shelter is home to several hundred dogs, cats and kittens, along with eight donkeys, two mares and a horse.

“In the last two years we have noticed that the situation has worsened. We are receiving more and more animals and less are being adopted.” said Lieselotte.

“We used to find there were peak periods for receiving unwanted animals, after Christmas, in summer when people go on holiday and after the hunting season is over, for example, but now we receive lots all year round. This year seems to be the year of the black and white cat and the Siamese mix.”

Offering a home

The shelter receives strays and abandoned animals collected by four câmaras: Loulé, Faro, Tavira and Albufeira, as well as from the public. The AAAA also works with the Serviço de Protecção da Natureza e do Ambiente (SEPNA), the nature and environmental protection unit of the GNR, bombeiros and police.

By law, câmaras must keep any animals that are collected from the streets, beaches and countryside for a period of seven days, they are then brought to the shelter where their health is assessed, they are vaccinated and neutered, before they can be adopted.

Sad stories

As we walk around the shelter, every dog we see seems to have its own sad story.

“These two puppies were found dumped in a dustbin in Loulé a few days ago, this dog was found outside Portimão hospital, this one was found on Morgado golf course ….”

I am also told some sad stories of terrifying neglect, cruelty and tragedy. Just a few months ago, 20 dogs were found with no fur at all, tied up next to outbuildings at a property on the outskirts of Loulé, together with two or three lying dead.

The body of the recently deceased owner, an elderly old man, was found nearby, with one dog standing on top, guarding him.

“We were only able to save two,” said Lieselotte, sadly. “The rest were too sick.”

With regards to finding new owners for the animals it cares for, the AAAA has a strict policy. It never gives animals away immediately when a potential owner visits the shelter.

People must come to the shelter up to three times if they are interested in adopting an animal. They are carefully interviewed first to make sure they have adequate space and enough available time and resources to care for their pet.

They sign an adoption contract, which says the animal will not be tied up or given to a third party, among other conditions. It also asks for a set donation, animals are never given away.

“We very rarely agree to release animals near Christmas, for fear that the owners are not ready for the commitment. If you are reading this and would like to home one of our animals, we’d be happy to see you after King’s Day, January 6.”  

For 12 years, Lieselotte and her colleagues used to go to several hotels to pick up leftover food for the dogs, but in 1995, the Portuguese veterinary authorities outlawed this, insisting that dry food must be sourced. The dogs at the shelter alone eat their way through 200kg of food a day and the shelter is seriously struggling to keep up with the high bills.

Every month the AAAA needs to pay for veterinary care, food, staff costs, insurance and transportation. The AAAA receives 15,000 euros a year from Loulé Câmara towards the running costs, but this does not even cover monthly bills, which total around 18,000 euros.

“We receive some help from our German partners and the Jean Sainsbury Animal Trust in England and I must also thank Linda, Barry, Rebecca and the excellent Tavira Fundraisers, but we are really struggling, we have lots of outstanding bills to be paid. Any help readers of The Resident could provide would be extremely helpful.”

How you can help Canil de São Francisco de Assis

Help in kind

• Blankets.

• Transport to take animals to the vet.

• Fencing.

• Trees for planting.

• Material for shading enclosures.

• Premises for a charity shop with low rent.

• Become a member of the AAAA (25 euros per year).

Support the fundraising events

• Christmas Bazaar at the Old Market in Tavira, December 2, 10am to 2pm.

• Christmas Dinner Dance at Pedras da Rainha, Cabanas, December 9, 7.30pm. Call 281 324 795 for tickets.

• Support the AAAA stand at Feira da Serra de Loulé, NERA pavilion, Zona Industrial de Loulé, from December 7 to 10. 

Give a donation

Donations can be made by credit or debit card using the PayPal links on the website

Alternatively, cheques or direct money transfers can be made to:

Assoc. Amigos Animais Abandondados

Banco Espirito Santo, 8100 Loulé.

NIB: 0007.0247.00077000004.63

IBAN: PT 50 0007 0247 0007 7000 0046 3


For further information contact Canil de São Francisco, Campina de Baixo, 8100-285 Loulé on 289 416 862 or 919 765 600 or visit


[email protected]