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28 October 2014
Inside Out: Surprising Stories, Familiar Places

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   Inside Out - South: Monday September 19, 2005


Rescue dogs

Dog in Spanish dog pound
Animal sanctuary - a Brighton woman is fighting to save dogs

This week Chris Packham gets his teeth into another under cover investigation involving the rescue of mistreated and neglected dogs.

Catherine Green lives in a small flat in Brighton, with several dogs for company.

All of them are rescue dogs from Spain.

Catherine says, "I lost my house. I was getting divorced and didn't have much cash. I struggled to keep up the mortgage payments but kept sending money to this animal sanctuary in Spain.

"Eventually I had to hand the keys to my home back to the building society and my home was repossessed. But I'd worked out what was most important to me. It's the dogs."

Over the years Kate has rescued over 300 dogs from the Costa Brava in Spain.

It all started ten years ago when aged 47, she thought that she would move to Spain.

"One dog we've just rescued had spent its life tethered up outside a local supermarket in Tossa Del Mar without regular meals and barely with enough water."
Kate, dog activist

Her daughter was already out there - Kate is divorced and it seemed like a good idea to join her. But something stopped her dead in her tracks.

"My plan was to live in Spain and work at the rescue centre. After three months I'd had enough, I couldn't bear the scenes of cruelty everyday around me on the streets.

"There were just so many dogs just roaming half starved and so many ill treated."

According to Kate, the delivery drivers for the shop regularly kicked the German Shepherd.

Other dogs are literally picked up off the streets and taken to the sanctuary run by Michelle and Isobela.

It's a dust bowl with a dozen pounds and 300 dogs. Conditions are hard and for large parts of the year because of the warm climate - there's a serious tick problem.

Pet passports

Chris meets Kate at the sanctuary just outside Tossa Del Mar, a hidden side of Spain not on the tourist trail.

There she has arranged to take eight dogs back to the South of England.

She arranges pet passports for all the animals and loads them into the back of her van in cages.

Dog in distress
Man's best friend - this dog has suffered from poor treatment

Kate knows the van is nothing special but it does the job, so long as she takes regular breaks and sleeps in the van herself during the 900 mile journey home to Brighton.

But on this trip there is a hitch. A vet who has come from Switzerland to help out with the dogs and treat them for free for a week, spots a problem with one of the dogs due to travel back with Kate.

The large Rottweiller cross breed is having problems standing up. The dog has also appeared to have damaged its spine.

It is thought that the dog has Lime's disease and certainly can't attempt the journey before being properly treated.

New homes

Kate explains how she sees her role, "I rehome dogs now mostly through word of mouth. I used to advertise but now I don't have to.

"I don't rehome to anyone with children and people whose circumstances are likely to change.

"I used to do this just on voluntary donations but now I ask for a £70 adoption fee per dog - this covers the vaccinations, pet passports, petrol and the ferry crossing. But I'm always borrowing money from friends to do trips."

Kate's own needs are met simply by helping the dogs, she says, but she spends very little on herself.

"In the sanctuary the dogs get shelter and food but little else," she says.

Once a year Kate holds a sponsored walk in Brighton to raise money for the sanctuary.

Extreme cases

Kim is an ex-pat who also works at the sanctuary. She has to say goodbye to her favourite dog Vivac who has got a new home waiting for him in Kent.

It's the big male dogs which are particularly hard to rehome.

Kim too was shocked by the lack of care she saw on the streets of the tourist towns of the Costa Brava.

She moved to Tossa eighteen years ago and married a Spaniard.

"I just had to do something. There's no equivalent of the RSPCA in Spain and if you tell the police or the country rangers, they just don't do anything," she explains.

"The Spanish aren't into neutering and this is one of the real problems. People get dogs when they're pups, then throw them out. It's just normal in some parts of Spain."
Kim, dog owner and activist

Kim found puppies in a litter bin. She also found a dog which had hung itself on its own chain - tied up with just one metre to roam on.

She has found dogs kept in garages never given enough water and thrown food at random. Kim says even more extreme cases exist than this.

Kim and Kate also get dogs from the 'Gossero' which is Catalan for Dog Pound.

The council pound seizes 700 dogs a year and gives them a ten day stay of execution.

It's hell on earth and picking which ones to take back to the relatively hopeful environment of the sanctuary is like playing god.

But both women are passionate about their work, and hope to carry on bringing the plight of these dogs to the public's attention.

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See also ...

Inside Out: South
Cat stress

On the rest of Inside Out
Pup idol

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Landscapes of Hampshire

Stunning landscape - Danebury Iron Age fort

Lucinda Reeves dishes up another roving report on the archaeological landscapes of Hampshire.

She visits the ancient Iron Age hillside fort of Danebury.

Danebury is protected both as a Scheduled Ancient Monument and a Site of Special Scientific Interest.

After years of excavations at Danebury we know a lot of historic information about this hill fort, partly due to the Danebury Environs Project.

The hill fort is believed to have been occupied from the 5th century BC until around 100 BC.

Its defences were remodelled several times - there was a large settlement within the fort consisting initially of square structures, which were later replaced by roundhouses.

Guided tours of the hill fort can be arranged - contact Andover Museum - 01264 366283 or the Central Area Ranger Team - 01962 860948.

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