I love Portugal and wouldn’t want to live anywhere else, but one bother is stray dogs and cats. When we arrived here six years ago, hunters shot dead my neighbour’s beloved 14 year old cat and dumped a dog inside our fence. I phoned a local pet help group who came immediately, collected the dog, treated a cyst that had probably worried the hunter-owner, and rehomed it.
Last year a couple of small dogs passed through our plot with a tiny puppy. Two days later the tiny puppy reappeared and collapsed, in our garden, starving and full of fleas. I phoned the pet help group only to be told they were now forbidden to handle any dogs or cats, all of which had to be passed to the GNR. I phoned the GNR who said, "no it’s the camara’s responsibility." I phoned the camara who said, “The shelter is full” and put the phone down.
Trying to conserve a tiny patch of the fast disappearing beautiful Alenteijan montado, we are managing our little plot as a nature reserve. So far 387 species of flowers, birds, butterflies, mammals, insects, dragonflies, reptiles, trees, moths, amphibians, spiders and fungi identified. In the past few years local wildlife has suffered huge setbacks from decreasing rainfall, decreasing habitat, ever-increasing numbers of cattle (despite their huge summer water consumption), wall-to-wall annual ploughing leaving no cover for small mammals and shrub-nesting birds, hunters with dogs, explosives and baited traps, eucalyptus, olives and vines (in a world awash with eucalyptus, olive oil and wine), and ever more stray dogs and cats.
The latter two disturb and kill wildlife, and compete for the prey of Alentejo's few remaining wildlife carnivores, omnivores and raptors.
They also are a reservoir for the fatal feline contagious diseases (mainly FIP and FIV) for which there is no reliable vaccine or cure.
Yet, when I trapped a problem stray cat and asked a vet to, “Please check for non-vaccinatable, non-treatable contagious feline diseases: if negative, please sterilise and I will offer a donation to the shelter to accept it; if positive, I will pay for euthanasia”, I was aggressively informed that (a) if any dog or cat should choose to live on my land, I was responsible for it, and (b) even if a cat showed symptoms of FIP or FIV, they would not euthanise.
So my two elderly, sterilised and much vaccinated cats must risk catching FIV, FIP and whatever other non-vaccinatable, non-treatable diseases increasing numbers of strays may bring - and it’s my responsibility!
Not only do hunters dump dogs on a regular basis, they leave tens of thousands of spent cartridges on the ground, the metal rusting, the plastic not biodegrading, and spread tens of thousands of tons of lead ammunition (gunshots and bullets) into the European environment every year, polluting soil and water and poisoning animals and humans (March 2019, SpringerNature).
Why is it okay to kill and eat stock animals - cows, calves, pigs, piglets, sheep, lambs, chickens, ducks, rabbits, etc which often live and always die in horrific conditions and which, when treated like dogs and cats make admirable pets and even therapy animals, but dogs and cats are not required by law to be sterilised and are exempt even gentle euthanasia? Why do stray and abandoned dogs and cats have more rights than wildlife?
Left to itself, nature exists in balance and natural biomes produce the clean air, water and plants we need to survive. We need natural habitats. Where is the logic in destroying natural habitats and wildlife while protecting unsterilised dogs and cats? Incidentally, over thousands of years, dogs (all descended from tundra wolves) and domestic cats have been selectively bred by humans for efficient reproduction, while most wildlife reproduce once annually, numbers of young raised strongly tied to food availability.
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