How the public money is used to collect abandoned dogs in Spain

Para Español aquí

In the first place, it is necessary to know who is responsible for organizing and supervising the collection service of abandoned animals. Municipalities with more than 20,000 inhabitants are supposed to have their own collection service, and therefore it’s the city council that assumes the responsibility. In the municipalities with under 20,000 inhabitants, it’s the provincial council that organizes and is responsible for the collection service, as it is considered that smaller villages cannot run a kennel of their own.




Knowing who is responsible for the collection service of animals in the municipalities, we ask ourselves, what should be taken into account when these services are contracted. To answer this question correctly, and begin to understand the complexity of this problem, it’s necessary to know that:

In Spain, we do not have an animal protection law that applies to the whole country. This is due to the fact that the jurisdiction of domestic animals is attributed to the Autonomous Communities that pass their own laws on the subject. Therefore, in Spain there are 17 laws, with completely different contents. An example of these differences we see for instance on important matters such as the euthanasia legislation from the time of collection of animals: In La Rioja euthanasia is used after 8 days, compared to 10 days in Andalusia and 20 days in Castile and Leon.

Most of the regional laws do not have a preference in the allocation of the service of collecting abandoned animals in favour of animal protection association. The solicitation document that appoints higher scores in favour of this type of associations are scarce, as the economic factor is always the one that weighs the most when calculating the final score, therefore giving the job just looking at the money factor. In this sense the most complete Autonomous Law is that of Catalonia, which gives preference to associations and expressly prohibits the slaughter of animals collected in the facilities and in zoological centres in general.

To sum up we can say that, when the animal services are contracted, the scoring is done by the evaluation of the facilities, the veterinary service offered and the previous experience of the centres. But the most important score is the one concerning the economic aspect; the price that each bidder needs per the collection of each domestic animal (including travel expenses and maintenance of the animal during an determined period of time). Logically, a lower economic bid results in a worse assistance to the animal in terms of food and services provided. Surprisingly, having been convicted or being investigated for animal abuse does not prevent a person from getting one of these contracts.


The animal collection services contracts are mostly given in favour of:

1) A large company that handles services related with cleaning, garbage and, sometimes, municipal landfill. The service contract adds the management of the kennel and the collection of the abandoned animals in the municipality. In these cases it is impossible to know which part of the total monthly amount, that the company receives from the town, is destined to the municipal kennel. In general, the workers carry out various jobs functions and are not exclusively employed to take care of the collected animals. In addition, the workers often lack the necessary training to work with animals.

Relationships between animal protection associations and these types of companies are usually correct and open to collaboration. The facilities where the animals are located are of a municipal character, which means that the institutions also are responsible for a proper care of the animals and have opening hours for the public.


2) Canine residences owned by private entities. There are more and more owners of canine residences that request to be providers of the animal collection services. These contractors are usually not controlled by the public institutions. That means that they are generally not required to grant access to individuals or volunteers who wish to enter their facilities to help. There is therefore no way to check on the wellbeing of the animals, as well as it’s not possible to take photos of the animals to encourage adoption of these. Neither is it mandatory to call in associations when the privately owned residences want to put down animals so they could take care of the dog, as well as they don’t have to provide evidence to why the animal is being put to sleep. Only by stating that the animal was aggressive or seriously ill, is enough to have the animal sacrificed a few days after being collected.

The lack of supervision by the institutions of the work has given rise to complaints and denunciations against the contractors by the animal welfare associations. These clashes have ended with prohibiting the access to volunteers from critical associations, which leads to an even greater lack of control and transparency of what is going on behind the walls of the canine residences with the collected animals.



Is it a lucrative business to collect abandoned animals in Spain?

Definitely yes. It’s a constant source of income, which can be considered cheap if you already have the facilities, and the service is carried out with little supervision. It should be noted that, on paper, the average global annual budget established for this service by the different municipalities is around 60,000 euros / year. But the reality is that, if the number of animals collected is higher than expected, the budget can be increased to as much as the double of the initial amount established by the company, in order to not to stop the service due to lack of payment, and there is the trick. Some contractors have found, based on the lack of control, very imaginative ways to get an extra income, as for example collect the same dogs various times or bring dogs from other areas.

But there are other ways to make some extra cash, they range from charging the owner who has lost his dog a "fee", to charging the days the lost dogs has stayed in the kennel, or demanding very high quantities for adoption, rabies vaccine, microchip or deworming the animal.

This is only an overview that explains the interest there is in collecting animals at the greatest speed, even animals coming from individuals who find an easy way to get rid of their pet. Most of them will end up in overcrowded installations or euthanized.

To illustrate the interest in being a contractor of these collection services and the lobbying executed over the administrations, we can have a look at Castile and Leon and their “law on the protection of domestic animals”. In the past this law gave preference to animal rights organizations when allocating the collection services. However, this preference was eliminated in 2009, surprise… The Junta of Castilla y León, the council, changed the article 18.2 of the “law on the protection of domestic animals” so corporations had an easier acces to get these services.

This legal modification shows that public institutions do not always have the interest of the animals as a priority, but instead they are looking for a fast service, that does not demand help or improvements of the facilities to give a proper care, like some of the NGOs would do.


Recently, the Superior Court of Justice of Castile and Leon has annulled the decree of the Provincial Council of Salamanca that regulated the service of collecting of abandoned dogs in the province, because it considered that in the description of the services, therefore the job, "the animal welfare is not taken care of”. The association El Hocico resorted argumented that the documents only punctuated the lowest price and the shortest collection time, while the zero sacrifice, the conditions of the facilities and the identification by chip were not included. According to the ruling, which is a pioneer and which we hope will be taken into account in the future, the Decree of the Diputación "does not specify how facilities should be for a proper care and did not contemplate aspects such as fostering adoption, identification of the animal and its owner, aspects that the Administration must shape in response to the model of animal welfare that the society demands". The ruling concludes "we must take into account the social demand for humanitarian care of animals in helplessness."



How much of our tax is used for the animal collection services?

The destination of public funds by the administrations for the services of collecting dogs are very different from town to town. For example, the City council of Soto del Real spends 12.000 € / year, which means 1.41 € per inhabitant/year, the City of Badajoz invests 33,924 € per year, which is 0.43 € per inhabitant, the City of Gijón spends 81,668 € /year, about 0.36 € per inhabitant, Oviedo City spends 282,355.59 €/year, 1,28 € per inhabitant, or the Provincial Deputations of Palencia invests 30,250 €, which is 0,35 € per inhabitant per year.  Communities like Castile and Leon and Extremadura allocate an average of 0,6 € per inhabitant in nine capitals of provinces, while in smaller municipalities and other Provincial Deputations the average is of 0,01 € per inhabitant.

These expenses by the public administrations in many cases, not all of them, do not cover the needs that are derived from an effective protection and future adoption of the abandoned animals. There is little control and lack transparency in the execution and funding of these services. In spite of the current Transparency Law in Spain that obliges to communicate how public money is spent, we highlight the complexity and difficulty of obtaining information on the webs of local, municipal and autonomous administrations of the Spanish territory around this subject.


Autoras: Rebeca Huertos Domingo y Elena Garzón Saiz

Source: Official Bulletins of the Autonomous Communities cited. Municipal ordinances and public conventions for the collection of abandoned animals of the aforementioned Provincial Councils and Provincial Councils. Web of the public entities


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