Unwanted litters (21%), unwanted behaviors (13%), end of hunting season (12%) and lack or loss of interest in the animal (11%) are the main reasons why dogs and cats are picked up or have reached the protectors in the past 2019 according to the annual report that the Affinity Foundation has presented this Wednesday through video conference. Economic problems are relegated to sixth place and, despite the popular belief that summer is when a greater number of companion animals are abandoned, the reality is that vacations are a very residual reason (0.8%). In this act they have participated Isabel Members, Director of the Foundation and Jaume Fatjó, Director of the Affinity Animals and Health Foundation Chair at the Autonomous University of Barcelona (UAB).
Increased awareness and worrying figures
Although society in general is moving towards a greater awareness of the responsibility we have towards companion animals and the commitment that living with them requires, unfortunately there are still many cases of abandonment. More than 183,000 dogs and 123,000 cats were collected by shelters and protectors in Spain during 2019, according to the Affinity Foundation Study “He would never do it”.
A figure higher than the 140,000 that were known so far, and which responds to a review and adaptation of the methodology of this study, the only one in Spain, on the abandonment, loss and adoption of dogs and cats. Unfortunately, the data confirm what the entity and some protectors already warned: that the problem of abandonment in Spain could be more serious than what was known. While in our country the population of companion animals has been increasing, the number of animals collected has decreased slightly, remaining at around 3% of the total number of dogs and cats estimated to currently live in Spain.
Even so, the number of animals that arrive each year at the shelters is worrying. In this edition of the study, about 400 protectors and shelters from all over the territory have participated. With the data obtained and with the detailed information on the shelters in Spain, the Affinity Foundation has been able to adjust the method for estimating the data, reflecting more precisely the reality of animal abandonment.
Microchip: pending subject in Spain
Another issue addressed by the study “He would never do it” is the use of microchip, and the data is not positive: only 28% of the dogs and 4% of the cats that came to the shelters they were correctly identified with microchip. It must be taken into account that many animals come to the shelters because they have been lost, not because they have been abandoned. In these cases, the use of the microchip is key to facilitate the identification of their families and subsequent return. In 2019, only 23.3% of the dogs that were collected returned to their families, while in the case of cats the figure fell to 3%.
«In Spain the identification of companion animals is mandatory, except for exceptions with the use of the microchip. In the case of dogs, almost 90% are identified. However, half of the cats are unidentified. The key to reducing the arrival of animals without identifying the protectors seems, therefore, to achieve the effective application of the law, especially in the case of cats ”, warns Isabel Buil.
3,400 controlled colonies of cats
It should be noted that not all abandoned cats reach shelters, but they form colonies, which in many cases are managed by the shelters. According to data from the Affinity Foundation study, more than half of the Spanish protectors (56.6%) were in charge in 2019 of guaranteeing their well-being. The same report indicates that between all of them they care for more than 3,433 colonies of cats, made up of a total of more than 28,681 cats. Specifically, each entity manages an average of 22 colonies, each made up of an average of 14 felines.
Profile of the abandoned animal
The abandonment of animals is a problem that affects all types of dogs and cats. However, this study collects that most of the dogs that were cared for in the Spanish shelters in 2019 were mostly adults (60.8%), mongrels (60.6%) and medium-large (78%). Furthermore, most of them were in good health (66.5%). In the case of cats, the data varies. In 2019, puppy cats (48.1%) and adult cats (44.6%) were collected in very similar percentages. The vast majority were mestizo (94.8%) and, regarding their state of health, 51.4% were healthy. In the same way that there is no single abandoned animal profile, there is also no single profile of a person who abandons a dog or cat. However, it is important to note that in 2019 only 10% personally took their pet to the shelter. The vast majority were found (63.3%) or brought by a third party (26.9%).
According to the study “He would never do it”, 44% of the dogs and cats that came to a shelter in 2019 were adopted by a new family. A very similar percentage to previous years, which could indicate that adoptions are stagnating in our country. On the other hand, the data indicate that, one more year, adult animals have a more difficult time being adopted. In the case of dogs, puppies spend an average of 3.3 months in the shelter, while adults spend an average of 10.8 months waiting for a second chance. In the case of cats, the smallest spend an average of 2.6 months in the shelter, while adults 10.9 months.
“In addition to the fact that puppies are more attractive to adopters, there is the mistaken belief that an adult dog will no longer be able to integrate in the same way to a new family or that it will not be able to be educated correctly. And that’s not true. Adopting adult or senior animals can be an excellent option, and it also allows educating the animal and creating a strong emotional bond with it “, says Jaume Fatjó, director of the Affinity Animals and Health Foundation chair at the Autonomous University of Barcelona (UAB ).
Regarding the reasons for adopting a pet and not buying it, most of the people who take this step do so because they are sensitized to abandonment (42.7%), because they are collaborators of the entity (21.2 %) or by recommendations from friends and acquaintances (14.6%).
New way to estimate data
The Foundation already had indications that the reality of abandonment in Spain could be much more complex than what the data reflected, that is why it has been working on how to demonstrate it on a scientific basis.
Due to the lack of an official registry, the Affinity Foundation has expanded and improved its own census of protectors, the only one that exists to date. As a result of this work, the Foundation can specify that 1,554 shelters currently operate in our country. And it has also obtained more information about its characteristics (size and capacity, type of management, resources …). With everything, the expansion of this census has allowed him to have a very complete vision of the map of protectors in Spain.