In December 2019, Nacho Engel completed the Vía de la Plata, the route that starts in Seville and goes to Gijón to connect with the Camino de Santiago. It was during that trip that the urge to adopt a dog struck him. On his journey, intermittently, when he crossed a populated area, he was joined by new and peculiar travel companions: dogs that came along his path and kept him company for a while along the way. It was there that this international travel guide, a 55-year-old from Madrid, realized that his childhood and much of his adult life had been spent surrounded by animals, either family or friends. “When I finished I decided that it was a good time to take a gap year and adopt a puppy; Thus, during that time we would learn to live together, I would adapt and the process would be easier ”, Engel explains by phone. In a few months the desire to stop working became a kind of curse, with the start of the global health crisis due to covid-19.
That same desire to adopt a pet that assailed Engel multiplied during the pandemic. The tendency to adopt pets has not stopped growing in the last decade and explosively after confinement, with an increase of 44% in dogs and 35% in cats, according to data from the National Association of Manufacturers of Food for Companion Animals (ANFAAC). In Spain there are around nine million dogs and six million cats that live with humans.
But at the same rate that the adoption of dogs and cats has grown, the abandonment of pets has been maintained in 2021: more than 285,000 dogs and cats were picked up from the streets in Spain, according to the latest study on Abandonment and Adoption 2022 by the Affinity Foundation. Despite the fact that in Spain pets are already considered sentient beings and that there is greater animal awareness, there is still the inertia of considering a dog or a cat just another Christmas and/or birthday gift, without assessing the consequences of its arrival .
“Having an animal requires a series of responsibilities and I would tell new adopters to think about it, not to adopt on impulse. They shouldn’t say: ‘Oh, how beautiful is this dog, how handsome, I want to adopt him’. That they assess the pros and cons and that they really wonder if they are prepared to have an animal, which of course brings you a lot”, claims Alma González Zavala, founder and vice president of the Animals with a New Course (ACUNR) association, based in Madrid. “Adoption has to be an act of love, but a responsible one,” she adds.
What to do before (and after) adopting
The first thing to do before adopting an animal is to arm yourself with patience. “There are a large number of people who do not return the completed questionnaire once it is sent to them, because the questions we ask them face reality,” says Inma Chillón, president of SOS Felinos, an association for the fostering and adoption of cats. in Madrid. Before taking the step and being able to have a furry at home as one of the family, most animal protectors ask to answer a form. In it, in addition to data such as the name, surname, age or address of the future owner, a review is made of their knowledge of the animal world and the employment and economic situation of the future adopter.
“Sometimes a person or a family wants to adopt an animal, but it does not match their lifestyle and the questionnaire is used to get to know the adopter,” explains González from ACUNR. The questions range from how much it costs to feed a cat or a dog, how many years they live, how many members the adopter’s family is made up of, working hours, if they live for rent —and the landlord allows pets— or at home own and a long etcetera.
The budget that a family dedicates to pets amounts to about 1,200 euros a year
Another of the recommendations that experts make is to find out in advance about the price of medical care. As a general rule, once the adoption process has been approved, the animal will be delivered castrated or an agreement will be signed by which the owner agrees to do so, upon payment of a donation that ranges between 80 and 150 euros —with the that the expenses of the first vaccines are covered—, according to the protector or association. “The first thing that a dog should be done, whether it is an adult or a puppy, is to go to the vet, do a complete medical check-up, which includes a fecal analysis to make sure that the animal has been dewormed,” explains Cristina Mazarracín, 37 years old, veterinary assistant with extensive experience in various clinics in Madrid. She lives at home with eight dogs, of different breeds and ages, which have been “crossing my path” and which she has ended up adopting for various reasons.
Another aspect to take into account before adopting is the economic factor, that is, what it costs to maintain a pet, one of the main reasons why more animals are abandoned, according to a report by the Affinity Foundation. “It is essential to invest in better food for your pet when it is a puppy, because that way you will avoid future medical problems when it is an adult,” advises Mazarracín. The budget that a family dedicates to pets amounts to about 1,200 euros a year, according to a survey collected in the III Annual Study on Pets of Tienda Animal. This money is divided into an average of 839 euros in food, 350 in veterinary expenses and 90 in accessories and toys.
And in the case of cats, if it is the animal that has been chosen to adopt, there is an important requirement in terms of safety in windows, balconies and terraces that most animal protectors and associations ask for. “The day that was going to be the happiest of my life was cut short forever with the death of my cat. Not, which fell from the second floor where we lived,” explains Marga Arranz, 47, with a degree in Technical Mining Engineering and founder of Red Noa, a company dedicated to protecting doors and windows from possible falls from falling objects over the phone. felines. 20 years ago that tragic death and Arranz is still moved when talking about her cat’s “first love”.
“A lot of information enters cats through the windows: the sound of the birds, the smell of the stew of the neighbor on the third floor… If you can open them because they are protected and your cats are safe, for them it is life” explains Arranz. He kit of protection that Marga sells costs 99 euros, is easy to assemble and does not require work for its installation.
When Maika Gracia, a hairdresser from Vitoria, decided to adopt a second feline after having a Zeusa three-year-old black cat, the association with which he managed the foster informed him that liaAt nine months old, she was a “big climber” and would need netting on her windows as a prerequisite. “The first thing she did lia It was jumping to the window, as I opened it already protected”, explains Gracia smiling, who found Red Noa through the internet. “Without a doubt, if you protect them, they gain a lot in quality of life,” she adds. Carly Micó, translator and mother of two cats, had a similar experience: cechan16 years old, and Pepe, of five. This woman from Madrid, who lives in the surroundings of the El Retiro park, also has the nets that Arranz has devised installed in her windows. “Living in rental apartments it is very complex to install something that requires work. But in summer, for example, it was hell not being able to open the windows, especially if you work from home as is my case; and it is not sustainable to keep them locked up in a room so as not to risk ourselves,” explains Micó, who lives on the fifth floor. “People believe that they are not going to fall or that they survive, but there are more cases than you can imagine around us,” laments Micó, who tells how his mother’s cat died after falling from a window without a net.
Finally, and despite all the pitfalls of long forms, exhaustive personal interviews, several “frustrating” adoption attempts with different protectors and the search for a puppy, Nacho Engel found lua, a four-year-old hound who lives with him in a house in La Granja (Segovia). Engel defines her as a “loving, good and smart” dog, and she loves to run through the countryside with other dogs and travel, like him. lua It has probably become the best companion to repeat that route along the Vía de la Plata.