The animal welfare march, organised by numerous individuals who volunteer across many of the privately run shelters and municipal kennels within the Algarve, took place on 6 September in Faro and focused on “sterilisation and education”.

Talking to The Portugal News, Louise Aherne, said “We are focussing on the Faro Câmara and hope to be able to work together to jointly implement changes such as ‘Catch, sterilise and release’ programmes as a way to control the animal population.

“Our aim is to set an example, to challenge but equally to work alongside Faro Câmara with the longer term goal of setting up initiatives all over the Algarve”, mentioning also that a speech in form of a letter was going to be presented to the president of Faro Câmara.

The letter to the president read: “We have come to the capital of the Algarve today, representing various animal rescue associations and shelters, to ask for your support. In recent years collective pleas for help and campaigns to raise awareness of the stray and abandoned animal population have been met with indifference. The response of the different Câmaras is inadequate. However, we believe that if the capital of the Algarve will take the lead, resources and effective measures can be coordinated throughout the region.”

The facilities set up by the municipal authorities are being criticised in the speech for never having met the needs of the region to cope with the numbers of strays and abandoned animals rescued. “More often than not the municipal kennels are full so they rely on the independent shelters to take them in. Animals taken to municipal kennels often spend their entire lives there. The law no. 27/2016 bans the killing of stray animals as a means of population control, favouring instead sterilisation.”

The letter identifies the neglect of care and lack of responsibility of the population as the root of the problem which brings real risks with it, namely disease, danger to the public and to visiting tourists. “Much needed is a public awareness campaign, to educate and promote responsible domestic animal ownership. Too many people still shy away from sterilisation of their dogs and cats because of lack of education and information about the many benefits and economic hardship makes it difficult to afford. Incentives must be created to make sterilisation affordable and within the reach of the wider population.

“This is a social issue, a matter of public importance. Animal ownership carries responsibilities together with penalties for neglect and cruelty, and every citizen should be aware of this. The practice of easy abandonment of pets and dumping litters of puppies and kittens next to refuge bins has to stop.

“It is not acceptable in the modern world and it is not a pretty sight. Equally we look to local government for a better understanding of the problem we are dealing with daily. Many associations, independent shelters and groups are at your disposal.”

Louise said that they felt that the march had been a “success” and that they had support “from the majority of independent and municipal kennels within the Algarve and were delighted both Cristovão Norte from PSD and Paulo Baptista from PAN were present as well”.

She concluded: “The next steps are to engage with the President and discuss the contents of the letter. I believe we can work together, we are not asking for miracle solutions but to help us be able to implement education programmes and sterilisation programmes throughout the Algarve. Suggestions such as access to billboards for sterilisation campaigns, helping us implement capture, sterilise and release laws and importantly not ignoring the significant numbers of independent shelters with 1000’s of animals needing their voice to be heard as well as those in municipal kennels.”