For this week’s ‘Woof Wednesday’ we’re writing about not one dog, but a whole group of dogs – 250 of them, in fact – and a few cats for good measure.
When I went to visit APASA, my first thought was that these were some of the busiest people I have ever met. Caring for the stray and lost dogs and cats of the Costa Blanca is no easy task it seems. The volume of animals that get lost, abandoned or mistreated runs high, and there aren’t too many resources dedicated to caring for them, at least not in the long term, which is why APASAs work is so important.
APASA isn’t really a standard ‘pound’ – it is a centre for protecting animals. Every effort is made to reunite lost dogs with their owners. For rescue animals without homes, they will care for them for as long as is needed, and rehome them where possible. They won’t ever put a healthy dog down.
The work at APASA never stops – it is 365 days a year. The dogs still need feeding whether it is Christmas, Easter, or a fiesta. Whatever the weather or circumstances, a full shift needs to be put in. Luckily, the staff are absolutely dedicated to the cause. Andrea has worked there for 12 years, while Mandy got involved after helping out as a dog walker 16 years ago, eventually joining the board and then becoming the president of the organisation. From the many years they have dedicated to APASA, and the affection they have for the friendly dogs padding around the yard, I could tell how important the cause is to them. This dedication is what keeps APASA running.
One of the things that struck me most in the conversation was how they care for each dog. With 250+ animals, I think I would be tempted to just number them just to make it easier! But as I was hearing the stories of their long working days and learning about the system, many anecdotes would lead back to a particular dog – ‘that’s what happened to Apollo,’ or, ‘take Tomata for example.’ I was astounded to hear how each dog is cared for according to its needs.
Take their feeding time as just one example. Each dog is fed its own portion, rather than using a big feeding bowl. So naughty thieves might need to be tied up to let the others eat their share, while staff will make sure that sick or fussy dogs eat their share. So when I then found out that they have just 3-4 people on each shift (or 5 if the vet is visiting) I was even more amazed. The staff know the dogs, their quirks, problems and needs. The amount of compassion and hard work this approach takes is staggering.
Coping with the fires
Extra strain was put onto APASA when the fires around Xabia and Benitatxell broke out in early September. Although mercifully the fire’s didn’t affect the site directly, the heat, smoke and sounds of the planes was extremely distressing for the dogs and cats. The flames were close, could change direction rapidly, and new fires were springing up all over the place – nobody knew where the next one could be.
Mandy speaks with real pride about her staff’s dedication during this time- they stayed onsite with the animals for 2 nights. They had to be ready to get them out in case the fires drew nearer. They also suddenly found themselves with 25 extra displaced cats and dogs needing shelter, a large increase for an operation that is already stretched, but they coped.
How you can help APASA
Hundreds of animals per year need food, water, shelter, and veterinary care. The town hall does contribute a small amount towards running APASA, but the vast majority of their funding comes from the public.
APASA members pay a very small yearly fee which goes towards feeding and caring for the dogs. One-off donations from caring individuals, businesses, or independently organised fundraising events are are always welcome, too. There is no such thing as a small contribution.
APASA raises some of its own funds by organising trips, and they have a second-hand shop in Xabia (by the Deutsche Bank!). You can keep up to date with upcoming events and find out about donations on their website or Facebook page.
The shop is always looking for donations and volunteers. If you think you can spare a few hours to help, then please get in touch or pop in and see them.
The ‘regular’ volunteers are all skilled and experienced workers, however APASA could always use a helping hand if you have the time. Dog walkers are especially sought after to help exercise and socialise the dogs. If you think you can help then get in touch.
I want to thank Mandy and Andrea again for their time – as I stressed above, they are very very busy! I would also say that any dog lovers out there who are thinking of getting a dog – speak to a rescue centre like APASA before you buy a puppy from a breeder. There are thousands of dogs in the Costa Blanca alone looking for a forever home.