I just discovered that last September a federal law came into force in Portugal which prohibits the euthanasia of companion animals at shelters. I can’t find the law on the Internet. It would appear to be an attempt to instantly create genuine no-kill shelters across the country.
However, it’s not working. It is not working because the number of people abandoning their cats and dogs has not reduced. As there is nowhere to put them they are ending up on the streets. It would appear that there was insufficient preparation for this law. If the citizens of Portugal had been given longer – and I would suggest it takes years – to improve companion animal guardianship with the aim of lowering the number of animals abandoned annually, then the scheme might have worked. However, the shelters are full up and the only place for these animals is on the streets.
The website portugalresident.com says that there is an animal abandonment crisis. Remarkably, one shelter manager, Ema Mock, claims that some animals in her care become so depressed after two or three days that they essentially commit suicide.
“Nothing we do cheers them up. No cuddles, no amount of holding or syringe feeding-nothing works. After two or three days they get depressed and die”.
I have never heard of cats becoming so depressed that they commit suicide. I presume that she means that they stop eating. I’m also not clear why they become so depressed after two or three days. However, what is clear is that they have a problem with the new prohibition on euthanasia.
The People’s Animals Nature party had apparently predicted the problem last year when the law was proposed. There have been attempts to encourage people to adopt unwanted cats and dogs but the numbers haven’t risen. It appears that the shelters have filled up.
The head of the country’s veterinary association, Jorge Cid, said that local authorities were no longer picking up wandering street cats and dogs because there is nowhere to put them. He believes that there was an inadequate amount of forward planning and that this is the source of the problem.
He suggested a working party to try and drastically reduce animal abandonment. The stray animals have got so bad that packs of dogs are breeding in rural areas and as a consequence people should avoid them.
The story is interesting as an example of failure in trying to force improvements in cat and dog guardianship through legislation. I believe that if you want to improve the skills of cat and dog owners you have to educate them and it has to be done over a very long period of time because you are imposing a culture change.
All they can do now is rapidly increase animal shelter space and crash course individuals who haven’t grasped the fundamentals of cat guardianship. In the meantime cats and dogs are dying but in a far more painful way than euthanasia.