– How was the cold wave?
– It’s all destroyed. I hardly sleep, we spend the whole day here.
This is how Leticia Reyes sums up the serious situation that animal protectors are going through during the historical storm that has especially affected the Community of Madrid. Tree fellings, closed roads and falls have drawn all eyes, but those weren’t the only effects. Animals have also suffered the consequences of the great snowfall and for women like Leticia it has meant seeing their dream collapse. She is responsible for the protector Friends for animals (AXLA) and in the last few days he’s seen two years’ work fall apart. “We had a cat flap that we had a hard time lifting and the night of the snowfall was destroyed,” he laments.
Leticia could not go the first day of the snowfall, but a colleague of hers with an SUV managed to access and told her about the expected disaster. Then, several volunteers and people who came to the request for help, tried to minimize the effects of the storm. “The first thing we did was bring the animals home and rescue those that had escaped,” he says. They also put sheet metal in the holes, fixed the kennels, and put blankets on the animals so they wouldn’t get cold. Thanks to this work, the 200 animals taken in are now out of danger. “We have the kittens in a room and the chickens in the bathroom,” says Leticia.
Dogs have not been able to enjoy the snow because they slip on the ice and mud. Furthermore, many doors are locked and the animals have more nerves and stress than usual. This has been especially significant in the sanctuary Saving Furry, as Adrián Prieto, a resident of the same, comments. “Due to the stress and the cold, a cow rammed two horses and left them seriously injured,” he says. Therefore, a few days later an emergency veterinarian had to go and heal the injuries that remained.
Despite the storm warning, many protectors were not expected to be cut off from such low temperatures. That happened in Animal Rescue Spain (ARE), according to its director, Fran Díaz. “Trees and part of the facilities have been broken, the animals’ water taps have exploded, the pipes are frozen …”, he explains. The first days were the hardest, but now he celebrates the good condition of the animals, even though some of them have caught a cold.
For shelters it is unthinkable not to spend several days attending to the animals, since some need daily care. At AXLA they have several dogs with ehrlichiosis, a disease caused by tick bites, leishmaniasis, caused by mosquitoes, and other diseases that require daily medication and continuous monitoring.
Likewise, other animals that live on the street have been completely abandoned during the Filomena pass. This is the case of cat colonies. AXLA is also in control of some neighborhoods that have reduced their population to less than half after the snowfall. “We do not know if they have hidden or what has happened. We know that the smallest have died,” he laments. Fran tells a similar story, according to which the cats have got into huts and low areas due to the cold, many being buried by the snow. In addition, eating during those days has also been a challenge. “With the frost, the people who went out to feed them, which are usually the elderly, have stayed at home,” he explains. Although he also highlights that this has been covered with the volunteers who have volunteered.
Likewise, urban fauna has suffered the impact of the storm. In some areas that were locked, such as Retiro Park, it has been impossible to care for the animals. “They have ducks to decorate the lakes, but when these things happen they forget,” denounces Fran. From ARE and AXLA they are in charge of feeding pigeons, sparrows and other birds in the area. Another issue that worries Fran is the management that has been done in the municipal kennels. “I imagine it took them two or three days at least to access,” he says.
The precariousness in which animal shelters are plunged comes from afar. Beyond the coronavirus crisis, his work has always been marked by the incessant struggle to get income to survive and continue rescuing. In the same way, being the animals the great forgotten in extreme situations, as this storm has been, the people in charge of the shelters have also always tried to show the importance of their cause and of the lives they defend against all odds.
The health and social emergency further aggravated their economic situation. “We have survived with the few donations we have from individuals,” says Leticia. From ARE, they coincide with this experience: “Without adoptions and without income, we cannot rescue everything we would like,” says Fran.
The problem of adoptions has been another of the great challenges. At the beginning of the pandemic, a considerable increase was detected, according to the Affinity researchBut the protectors chose to be cautious. “If we had wanted, we would have given all the animals, but they were not quality adoptions”, clarifies Fran. And it is that, to the whim of having a dog for Christmas, this year the one of wanting a dog for quarantine has been added. According to this, the protectors have more animals than other years and fewer adoptions, which has made them have much more work with the arrival of the storm Filomena.
Animal shelters continue to try to cope with the effects of the snowfall. Now, what they need most are blankets, duvets, cleaning products, medicines, volunteers to repair the damage and financial support to continue with their work. Organizations like AnimaNaturalis they have already started a blanket collection for the benefit of these shelters in various parts of Madrid. In addition, Salvando Peludos has proposed to improve the facilities so that this disaster does not occur again and therefore its needs now are cement, fences and other construction tools. “It’s time to prepare for the next ones,” says Adrián.
But above all what these organizations ask is to stop being “the great forgotten ones”, as Leticia explains. They hope that both municipalities and individuals will be involved in the defense of animal welfare. “The solidarity of the people is the only thing we have,” he says desperately. Thus, these shelters continue to protect the lives of hundreds of animals while their media space is minimal and the inaction of municipalities outrage those responsible for them.