Since last February the Brighton branch of the UK animal charity the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA) has helped find new families for 114 stray and neglected dogs from a number of animal rescue associations in Portugal, having re-homed all but two of the dogs that were shipped there over the past year.
The bridge between the two was built by holistic animal therapist and animal communicator Karen Lippitt, who works closely with Brighton RSPCA and who has been a frequent visitor to Portugal since the 1970s.
Last year she co-organised an exhibition held at Brighton’s famous ONCA Gallery, named Down to the Bone, in a bid to raise monies to fund the trans-national re-homing efforts as well as help a number of Portuguese animal shelters with the costs of feeding and treating their charges.
The funds raised - £10,500 plus one thousand pound’s worth of dog food – were put towards helping Brighton RSPCA, funding local neutering programmes in the Algarve, and covering the costs of transporting the dogs from Portugal to Brighton which can reach £200 per dog and £150 per puppy.
Once they arrive in the UK the upkeep for the dogs is footed by the RSPCA.
The first batch of dogs from Portugal - four dogs from the association Dogs of Portugal in Setúbal – arrived at the RSPCA in Brighton exactly one year ago, in February 2013, followed by another two from The New Goldra Dog Sanctuary in March.
Since then a further 108 dogs have been transported from Portugal to Brighton, from associations including SOS Algarve Animals, the Refugio dos Burros ‘Donkey Sanctuary’, and Canela Cadela in Salema, as well as from municipal kennels where Karen believes they awaited “certain death.”
So far, the Portugal-RSPCA Brighton re-homing project has had close to a 100 percent success rate, with which Karen says she is “delighted”.
“Up to today all but two have been re-homed and the two that we have left will get homes soon, so pretty well 100 percent”, she told The Portugal News this week, adding: “I am asked quite literally several times a day [to help] a deserving dog. It is heartbreaking to say no but we can’t help them all. Saving the life of one dog won’t change the world, but it will surely change the world for one dog.”
Karen also has to be very careful not to bring dogs from Portugal that will take homes from similar local dogs in the UK, such as German Shepherds and Collie-types.
“I am often asked why we are bringing dogs to the UK when there are so many homeless dogs here. As we all know, animal welfare in Portugal is almost non-existent, with no equivalent of the RSPCA, so we must do what we can. We get lots of publicity before the dogs arrive and there is no doubt that the local dogs find homes more quickly as a result of more people coming to the shelter. Down to the Bone was also able to contribute a substantial amount to the RSPCA in Brighton specifically to help death-row dogs in the UK.”
However, the funds raised through Down to the Bone are now dwindling and Karen is appealing for any donations to keep the project running.
“As long as people keep donating and we have the money we will continue to bring dogs”, she pledges, stressing: “Funds are getting low and we need all the help we can get.”
To make a donation please send to Paypal firstname.lastname@example.org. Alternatively, contact: Karen@helpingpaws.co.uk / (+44) 07818 402771, Facebook helpingpawsuk, or see website: www.helpingpaws.co.uk