Headline news – €6 million to promote Algarve Tourism Abroad (last week’s edition).
Is the new head of ATA (Algarve Tourism Association), Luís Carlos Gonçalves, going to address the problem of stray cats and dogs in the Algarve and use a large chunk of that money to support existing animal rescue organisations; create as a matter of urgency government sterilisation programmes and, above all, share with the public the importance of the humane treatment of stray animals to the local economy?
Diane Webster, in a detailed report for CANDi/HRC on the impact of stray cats and dogs on tourism, writes: “For many tourists, encountering cats or dogs that are obviously strays – starving, sick, or suffering – while on vacation leaves a lasting negative impression. From recent research, we have learned that once tourists have such an experience, many are less likely to return to that destination and will also share the incident with friends, family members, colleagues, and on travel review sites. Some tourists even refuse to travel to certain destinations because they don’t want to see stray cats and dogs suffering or have heard that the destination country controls stray populations through inhumane and brutal mass killings.” Although the report is not specifically about Portugal, it does mirror foreign visitor experiences of the attitude and treatment of stray cats and dogs in the Algarve.
There already exist a number of voluntary organisations and individuals based in the Algarve who care for, try to home and run sterilisation programmes. I am unaware of any existing government support for these organisations or any local government sterilisation programmes to address this issue.
For example, Albufeira-based Amigos dos Gatos do Algarve (small stray/feral cat voluntary organisation running full time feeding and welfare programmes, with a main focus on trap-neuter-return sterilisation) is inundated with email requests from tourists visiting the Algarve to assist stray cats in distress.
This small organisation relies almost totally on donations from supporters – the majority are holidaymakers who visited the Algarve and witnessed the suffering and attitude towards stray animals.
The CANDi/HRC report concludes that it makes business sense for tourism companies and tourist destination governments to help strays by creating programmes that humanely control their populations through the only ethical solution – sterilisation.
Caroline Lee Ferreira