Every year, the end of the hunting season causes a terrible increase in injured and traumatised stray hunting dogs. But the mass dumping can hardly be called a crime: since it is too difficult to prove who the owner of a stray dog is, the police often does not even open a case. The galgueros do not only get away unpunished, they know they will walk away untouched. In an effort to change this, Sergio Garcia Torres, director of the Spanish Directorate-General for Animal Protection, presented a registration system for (stray) animals early February.
The Directorate-General is a part of the Spanish Ministry of Social Affairs, and, among other things, has the objective to incorporate European guidelines regarding animal welfare into the Spanish legal framework. The European Parliament (ENVI) voted on 12 February 2020 for a mandatory EU registration system for all cats and dogs using chips, in an effort to reduce illegal trading and help reduce animal cruelty. The national registration system was launched in response to this on 29 January 2021. Although the system aims to address the wider problem of stray pets, Torres specifically referred to the tragic situation of podencos and galgos, who are discarded in large numbers by their hunters each year starting in February at the end of hunting season.
With the registration system, an important step towards enforcing animal welfare has been taken, since it enables retracing owners from stray or abused animals. Hunters who structurally abuse or discard their dogs at the end of the hunting season, could be identified and when tracked down, owners could be held accountable. On one hand, the hope is that this national registration system will help improve accountability of the owners, and on the other hand that it will facilitate detection and enforcement in cases of animal cruelty.
Some may argue that the introduction of the registration system is mostly symbolic and may do little to improve the lives of galgos and podencos at present. Without question, a lot more is needed to solve the problem. But the launch of the chip comes with the much needed message that mistreating and discarding hunting dogs is a crime. So the chip may be small, but it is a step in the right direction.