Few breeds of dogs have to endure the same kind of hardship as the Galgo Español (Spanish Greyhound). Galgos are extremely gentle and calm; get on fantastically with young children, other dogs, and even cats; and would like nothing more than spend the whole day lazing around on a comfy sofa. But whereas in the old days (9th to 12th century) the Galgo was held in great esteem with Spanish nobility in particular, and there were many laws designed to punish the killing or theft of this dog, today’s reality is somewhat different.
On returning from my recent vacation in Israel, I had the pleasure of bumping into a wonderful bunch of rescue folk and Galgos doggies at Madrid Barajas Airport en route to their new forever homes in the U.S., and they were only to happy to have a chat about their rescue work.
Barbarella Buchner for Dogster: Tell us about your organization.
Debbie Wise Calfa: Scooby North America started in Canada in 2005, and was organized mainly to be the voice between the Scooby Animal Refuge in Medina del Campo, Spain, and the U.S. We strive to end the mass killing of hunting dogs of all breeds at the end of the yearly hunting season in Spain and bring about change in Spanish animal welfare laws.
To accomplish these goals some of our main objectives, amongst many others, are:
How did you yourself get involved with Scooby?
Back in 2007, the Greyhound group that I was involved with decided they were going to add the “assisting the galgos” as part of their mission statement. So another volunteer and myself decided to go to the Scooby shelter to help and bring home two Galgos to place in our adoption program. It was a trip that I will never forget!
I had to figure out what I needed to do to help, and decided to contact the volunteer representative who assisted me with my trip. I told her, “I left my heart at the shelter. What can I do and when can I start helping?” So she immediately set me up as the “Virtual Adoption Coordinator” for the United States and Canada.
Since then, I have made many trips to Spain, including several turn-around trips to bring dogs back. Once you visit a shelter in Spain, it is life changing and you don’t forget it. I feel Scooby Medina is my second home.
Tell us a little bit about the Galgos breed – what kinds of dogs are they? What is their origin and “heritage”?
The Galgos are an ancient breed of dog and a member of the sighthound family. The Galgo is not closely related to Racing Greyhounds, and the lineages of the two breeds are very different. However, during the 20th century, some Galgo breeders did cross-breed the Galgos and the Greyhound for speed on the racing track.
You specialize in rescuing Galgos dogs. Is there something in about this breed you particularly like, or do they actually need extra help and support?
The atrocities that these dogs endure are horrendous and they deserve to live in a home where they can appreciate the finer things in life and the affection and care they so rightly deserve.
They live their entire lives on the brink of starvation in dark, damp spaces and at times, tied on short chains. They rarely have human contact or receive affection, and are ignored and seldom receive veterinary attention.
Besides the common practice of being hanged from trees, they have been drowned in wells or thrown into empty wells, trapped in bear traps, shot, burned, and abandoned to fend for themselves and/or die alone.
Does the Spanish government have no animal protection laws?
It is illegal by Spanish law to use physical abuse, maiming, or abandon dogs. But it is a problem that the national and local governments select not to address, and the killings that exist every day are ignored.
Additionally, prosecution is really rare for the cases of Galgo abuse. It appears to be an issue that most people seem to not care or worry about. Many hunters who are caught in the act receive no penalties.
Do you get any subsidies from the US or Spanish government to finance your rescue efforts and/or run your shelters?
We are solely funded from private donations and fundraising.
Once you have rescued a dog from a bad situation, what happens?
They get rehomed all over Europe and some come to the United States to be rehomed. Scooby Spain transports dogs various times a month to many European countries, like Belgium, Germany or France.
Are your shelters no-kill shelters, both in the US and Spain?
All Scooby shelters are no-kill shelters. We do not bring dogs to the United States and then kill them!
Is there a dog in your rescue experience that particularly stood out as a very special canine?
At my first visit to Scooby, I met “Mr Love,” a lovable, sweet, gentle boy, with a great, happy personality. He would stand up and kiss you, hug you. Several months after that trip, he was brought to the USA. He was adopted and loved so much by his family, and everybody else loved him too. One night he escaped and the family searched for him all night. The next morning he was found near his home at a playground. He had been killed by a deer. It was news that we all took pretty hard.
Oh no, that is so sad! Rest in peace, Mr Love. 🙁
Taking Scooby into the future: Are there any new ideas being put into action how to improve or promote the welfare of the Galgo in Spain?
We continually work on a daily basis to educate the public about the rights of the animals in Spain. We do this through our Facebook page, our website, speaking at and attending events where our dogs are welcome.
Scooby Spain also fights every day to change the laws and educate the public on animal rights in Spain.
About the Author: Barbarella Buchner — Ailurophile. Geeky Goth Girl. Ex-Musician Singer/Songwriter. Photographer. Web Designer. Fibromyalgia + RA Sufferer. And totally mad. She originally hails from Hannover (Germany), then moved to London, and since 2004 has lived on the tropical island of Lanzarote, together with her tabby twins Lugosi & Spider, and ginger queen Ruby Akasha. Apart from being an avid hobby — and sometimes even paid. — photographer, she works as a freelance web and graphic designer and occasional Catster / Dogster contributor.