Sighthound Sanctuary & Animal Services (SSAS) is a charity encompassing a variety of projects aimed at saving, protecting, improving, and elevating the lives of companion animals. These projects are part of our humane, anti-aversive education, training, and behavior modification programs, public awareness and public assistance programs, and rescue, placement, and support programs. SSAS believes that “rescue” should comprise much more than just taking in needy dogs then rehoming them as soon as possible. For us, “rescue” is a principle guiding myriad practices that lead to the result of a safe, well, and happy animal.
Some of our services include sighthound safe haven, counterconditioning, and skills training as needed, free public assistance, outreach, & education programs, and careful hound placement to well-matched homes/guardians as appropriate. We serve all needy sighthound breeds, including but not limited to the Afghan hound, Borzoi, Podenco Ibicenco / Ibizan hound, Podenco Canario, Galgo Espanol, Irish Wolfhound, Scottish Deerhound, Saluki, Silken Windhound, Azawakh, and similar, including mixes of these. We also help all other dogs and their humans as funds allow. Although we began as an international rescue services charity, our efforts are now mainly within the USA.
We are not a kennel. The dogs live indoors; they have bedrooms just as most of your beloved children have, and they enjoy the same amenities we do, including among other things, couches, memory foam beds, fresh air, windows with views, huge, secure play yards, and the 24/7/365 care of their trusted humans, plus the company of conspecifics. Their behavioral and emotional as well as physical health, their happiness, their safety and security, and the elevation of their species’ status in society–all of these goals inspire our work for them daily.
Though our efforts have expanded and transitioned since our founding, the SSAS heart will never leave the Spanish hound. Below is a short overview of the plight of Spanish sighthounds for those unfamiliar with it.
WARNING! INTENSELY DISTURBING INFORMATION FOLLOWS:
The photo above is of a Spanish sighthound in a Spanish pound. Every year in Spain, thousands of sweet, loyal hounds are obtained by hunters, and sometimes kept near-starving because the hunters there believe a starving hound makes a better hunting dog. Then, when hunting season is over, most of these dogs are horribly tortured, mutilated, and killed (*hanging is one common method) or abandoned on the streets of Spain, suffering further abuses, injuries, and/or painful deaths. This vicious cycle is repeated every year, with new dogs, followed by new abuses, neglect, abandonments, and/or killings. The photo above was taken at one of the perreras (called “killing stations” by some) in Spain. This hound was rescued. Without rescue, thousands more like him are left with little hope each year.
Because these dogs are not only devoted but also highly intelligent, some of their hunter-owners will take extreme measures to keep them from applying their wit and devotion to finding their way back home after abandonment. For example, podencos and galgos have been found with their legs broken so that they can’t get back home, or their eyes gouged out so they can’t see to get back home. Some have been set on fire as a means of free euthanasia, many are hanged from trees, some have their mouths pried permanently open so that they cannot eat, and at least one has had its throat slit in front of a rescue worker, apparently out of spite. They are often hit by cars and left in the road to suffer until dead. Sadly, the best outcome for those of them not handed over to a legitimate rescue group may be that they are left to wander the countryside–unharmed in the beginning, perhaps, but starving and declining day by day. Some of the shelters in Spain are for-profit, which raises questions in the Spanish rescue community.
Alarmingly, every now and then it is also discovered by Spanish locals that a rescue in Spain is being run by an ex-pat profiting off the backs of suffering animals and off the breaking hearts of the world that, upon viewing their photos and sad stories, does not think twice about sending money overseas to help. The rescue shelter shown in the bottom two photos below is run by ex-pats. The dog in the photo was rescued from a Spanish pound, by American rescuers and donors, the day before he was to be euthanized. He was to be fostered, vetted, rehabbed as needed for travel, and prepared for travel by the ex-pat-run foster/rescue shelter; his expenses were paid for by his rescue/supporters in the USA. Months passed, an adopter waited excitedly for him. But the USA rescue was never allowed to retrieve the dog–all attempts to pick him up were refused by the ex-pat group, which eventually sent him to another country. (And the USA rescue’s money sent for the dog’s expenses was never returned.)
“A picture is worth a thousand words”:
The first photo below is how the dog looked the day before he was pulled from the pound. The second and third photos are how he looked in the ex-pat rescue shelter a few months later.
These two photos were taken inside an ex-pat rescue shelter in Denia, Spain. (All are not alike.)
The best way for U.S. residents to help Spanish hounds is to support the rescues in the U.S.A. that have worked hard and spent much to get Spanish hounds to safety here. There are many podencos and galgos already in the U.S.A., waiting for homes, and/or for some other kind of support, whether medical, behavioral, or more basic supplies. Unlike American rescues intaking from American shelters/rescues, where often the intaking rescue is not charged at all, or charged very little, American rescues intaking Spanish dogs often are asked to pay $300 to $600 or more per dog to the shelters/rescues in Spain for the dogs they bring here–and they also pay thousands in travel costs to get the dogs here. So please support your local Spanish hound rescue and ensure that it remains near you, doing its good work. If you are seeking to add a Spanish hound to your family, remember that when you choose one from the rescue located nearest you, not only do you support the charity that lives in, works for, and enriches your community, but you also make room for that rescue to help another dog in Spain move in to its new life, which then makes room for yet another to be saved. When you select your Spanish dog from one of the waiting dogs at the local rescue, you are saving lives AND supporting local animals.
On the other hand, if you are thinking of picking from dogs still in Spain, please consider the consequences to the hounds who are already in the U.S.A., who have been here, waiting, who endured their own hard journeys, yet greeted their new keepers with a sparkle in their eye, but whose sparkle has now perhaps begun to dim as the weeks and months pass by, and planes slow overhead, carrying the dogs that will take the places they dream of.