By Veterinarian Mogens Østergaard Hansen

In August 2007, vet Mogens Hansen from Dyreklinikken Holger Danske was in Spain as a volunteer to help a project for street cats. During the five days he spent in the clinic, 85 cats and 22 dogs were sterilized and marked. This is his story:

Through my work with street dogs in India and Thailand, I am in the committee for the newly founded organization Animal SOS. The goal of this organization is to support projects for street animals (primarily dogs, cats and hoofed mammals) in the world both practically and economically. At the annual general meeting we were asked if it was possible to help an organization close to Barcelona in Spain that had a serious problem with street cats. At first I was not interested because I had already planed a new project in Thailand in October/November 2007 but after some consideration, I managed to change my schedule so I could go to Spain for a week.

In August, we went South with equipment and medicine and after two days in a car we were happy when we arrived in Barcelona. We were going to a small town near the coast called Castelldefels. Here we met up with Jose Louis, an elderly man who did not speak English (not a lot of Spaniards speak English, but he spoke German instead (which I did not speak). Luckily he knew some French with which we could communicate.

We went to the clinic that consisted of three rooms with strip lights, some tables and a toilet and nothing else! No refrigerator, no equipment and no medicine. The vets who had been there before us had also brought their own equipment but they could really use the most basic things in the clinic. But we just had to get started.

Through my many projects in India and Thailand (see descriptions of these projects here) I was used to work under the strangest conditions by now, so this was close to luxury. We took out our equipment and the first day I examined basically all the cats (22), which they had expected would last two days. So I looked forward to the next day being a bit more relaxed.

But that was not going to happen. They had been out catching cats all night which meant that a large number of cats were waiting for us. Besides that, the rumor of a fast and effective vet from Denmark had been spread so there were also a couple of dogs from a local animals’ home. And it was supposed to be a cat project! But never mind we took the dogs also.

The days continued like this with lots of cats and dogs and in the end of the fifth day, the final numbers showed we had operated on 85 cats and 22 dogs. Everyone had made a great effort and was happy.

The last day Anna and I were out looking at animals’ homes and this was a great experience. We had heard so much about “evil” Spaniards who have bull fighting and hang their hunting dogs when they are not effective anymore. But then we arrived at the animals’ home where a lot of young Spanish volunteers who work with the animals in 35 degrees and without pay.

We saw most of the dogs and the majority of them were cute and very affectionate. Like in most places in the world, the dogs in Spain start out as family dogs but end up in the streets. People buy a puppy but when it gets bigger, it is not as cute anymore. Maybe you want a new puppy or you have to visit your family somewhere else in Spain so you let the dog out somewhere away from your house and then you have a street dog.

The cooperation with the local volunteers was good but it is thought-provoking that both local and state government show so little interest in helping. There should be decent facilities and equipment and the volunteers should get paid. Today they use a large amount of their own money to help animals in need!

Anna and I also had time to experience Barcelona where we stayed in a hotel close to the main street La Rambla that always buzzes with life.

We were offered private accommodation close to Castelldefels but we chose the hotel to be close to downtown Barcelona when we did not have to work.

But the last day we were invited to Jose Louis and his wife’s house to have Paella and Sangria together with the other helpers and we were offered to stay with the woman who first had offered us accommodation.

We had planed to drive back to Denmark but it became late and the atmosphere was friendly so we decided to take her offer. After seeing her house we decided that we could stay there next time. It was a giant house with our own section with living room, bedroom and bathroom on a mountainside. It also had a big swimming pool with a view over the Mediterranean and a big terrace above the pool. It was like a Hollywood movie.

The next project is in Thailand and so far we are tree vets and nice nurses from Denmark, Sweden and Norway more about that later.[divider]