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nadiaalison, lagoa, 14 May 2010 12:57 am
nadiaalison, lagoa, 14 May 2010 12:54 am
LAPS (Lagos Animal Protection Society)
No Room at the Refuge…
“It’s true – everyone in the business of rescuing animals is bursting at the seams these days, and things certainly don’t look as if they’re getting any better. This whole situation makes me so angry. Wherever you look, animal associations and organisations, and the ‘unsung heroes’ who work so tirelessly from their own homes, are doing exceptional work – but, you see, it’s all a wasted effort as we have absolutely no effective backing from the authorities…
A dying horse can lie tethered in the burning sun for three days while not one of the authorities appealed to for help (the GNR, the Bombeiros, the municipal vet) has any jurisdiction to intervene! Animals can be abandoned, cruelly treated, kept in inhumane conditions, thrown into rubbish bins - and no matter how much we denounce this sort of behaviour, there hasn’t been one case of animal cruelty taken to court in Portugal! There isn’t another country in Western Europe with such a record. Even in Spain – where there is deliberate animal cruelty – the authorities will come to the aid of animal protection societies.” A tireless campaigner against animals being used in circuses/ bullfights/ rodeos, etc., Bridget Hicks has earnt a reputation for saying things no-one wants to hear and makes a very good point when she challenges: “what sort of advertisement is this for the Algarve?”
She continues: “There are so many ramifications because nothing is done! I’ve written to Brussels asking for help from the Euro Group; I’ve protested that Portugal shouldn’t be allowed to be a member until it pulls its act together… but here we are, nearly 30 years down the line of animal work in the Algarve, trying to carry water in a sieve.”
But doesn’t she think anything has improved in the last three decades since she arrived here from 20 years of animal welfare work in the Far East?
“There was a period in the late ‘90s, early 2000s, when we felt we had achieved a great deal. The benefits of sterilisation were beginning to be realised, people were becoming more aware – but the situation has worsened in the last three years. The costs of keeping an animal are increasing all the time and things seem to be getting worse. I try not to look too closely at the outgoings we have here. They are so way in excess of any money coming in.”
We’re talking in the lady’s front room. Little dogs, the kind that seem to be stained by age; each with some notable idiosyncracy - a protruding lower jaw, blackened teeth, popping-out eyes, a missing eye, or, in one case, three and a half legs and almost blind (he’s been named ‘Speedy’) - pepper the soft furnishings, occasionally fidgeting for attention. Outside, a four-legged orchestra is in full voice. At one point ‘Speedy’ hops up for a stroll down the path… there is an awkward moment when he strolls too far to see his way home again – and Bridget can’t see far enough to go and help him. “Where HAS he gone?” It’s at moments like this that you realise how difficult life ‘aged-80-and-running-an-animal-sanctuary’ must be.
“I don’t want pity, just understanding,” she affirms. “But if everyone put just €1 in our collection boxes when they see them, our lives here would be a whole lot easier!”
The future is certainly not rosy. Bridget Hicks is aware that she is no longer able-bodied enough to run her refuge – and dreams of handing it over to someone else and living in a mobile home at the bottom of the hill. Any chance of selling the property has been kicked smartly in the teeth by the battalion of medium-tension electricity pylons which recently appeared across her land, in preparation to carry power from the Barão de São João wind farm to Portimão.
“A great animal worker friend I have in Africa has invited me to go there and live with her. She’s in her 70s – and looking after 500 baboons. I would love to go… but how am I going to get 24 dogs and 11 cats to Africa, for goodness sakes?”
If this article prompts just one person to ring Bridget Hicks up and volunteer some help – and a few people to put euro coins into the LAPS collection boxes when they see them, it will have done some good. But the real issue is to get to the people who continue to think it is perfectly acceptable to abuse and abandon animals simply because the country is so disinterested that it hasn’t passed any effective legislation to penalize them. Algarve 123’s offices were recently used to dump day-old kittens. Thanks to our classifieds manager Cristina Galhós, and her young son and daughter, the kittens were reared with love and dedication, despite a fair measure of marital strife – and then homed successfully.
Christmas, we’re told, is the ‘Time of Goodwill to All Men’… it is time to update that to include ‘women, children and animals’.