Visit to Spain June 2017

It was a privilege to travel with Martin, Leigh and Carolyn to meet the dedicated people running rescue and rehoming shelters for galgos in southern Spain, and see some of the vital work that the charity supports and funds.

Our first stop was at Arca de No in Albacete where our wonderful host Sole and her team of staff and volunteers showed us the improvements that GIN supporters have made possible.

We saw the updated veterinary clinic, where dogs can be treated more easily on site, and neutering operations carried out with less stress to the animals.

New insulated galgo kennel blocks help keep the dogs cool in the blistering summer heat, while underfloor heating will keep them cosy during the winter months.

There are also now solid pathways between the runs. Shelter workers previously had to cope with walkways made of old wooden pallets that were sinking into the mud.

Improved security measures mean the height of the wall around the centre has been raised significantly. Previously, galgos were simply being dumped over the wall of the shelter.

The centre rehomes more than 100 galgos a year in Italy, while others travel to France, Germany and Slovenia. A new air-conditioned van funded by GIN supporters will help keep dogs more comfortable during transport runs.

We also met a group of around 45 school students from a nearby village who were taking part in the centre's education programme, which aims to raise awareness of the plight of the galgos in Spain.

With enthusiastic help from three of the centre's gorgeous galgos, the students had a chance to see how these dogs could be loving friends and companions, rather than chattels to be discarded at the end of the hunting season.

GIN has funded a new education and exercise area at the shelter so groups of children like these from nearby schools can visit on a regular basis. The charity has also developed a new education website http://education.greyhoundsinneed.co.uk with downloadable guides and activities for use in classes.

Volunteers at Arca de No told us how just 10 years ago, it was practically unheard of to see someone walking along the local streets with a pet galgo. Now, it was becoming a more common sight - a testament to the work of the staff and volunteers at both this and other rescue shelters.

We next travelled to Tobarra to meet Camille, who with her mother Margaret, runs the APA Santa Clara dog shelter. This centre takes in strays and abandoned dogs, including many galgos, and finds homes for them in the nearby area and beyond.

One of the first things we saw was a litter of around nine galgo puppies, who had been rescued after being abandoned in a cave.

The dedication and hard work of the shelter volunteers was clear, but Camille showed us some of the problems they faced on their current site - makeshift runs and shelters cobbled together from old pallets and beds, erratic water supply, and rat and mouse problems. Added to that, the current owner of the land they were using was planning to sell up in the near future.

GIN is hoping to help the mother and daughter team with some funding towards the building of a new shelter on land nearby, with purpose-built runs and dedicated galgo blocks.

Our final visit was to Galgos del Sol near Murcia, where Tina and her team run an impressive shelter that has been supported by GIN for some years now. Many improvements had been made since GIN last visited the site, which can now house more than 100 galgos, as well as podencos and other breeds.

We saw the two new kennel blocks, newly built office, new exercise area and the on-site accommodation for volunteers, some of whom had travelled from as far away as the USA to help out at the centre.

It was both inspiring to see the wonderful work done by the staff and volunteers at the shelters in Spain, and heartbreaking to see how cruelly treated some of the dogs had been before being rescued.

But, most of all, it brought home how much they all still need our support.

Lynn Jackson, GIN Bournemouth Shop Manager