How rescue greyhounds became chic in Barcelona
For the faithful greyhounds of southern Spain, life is fast, furious and often short. At the end of hunting season each year, thousands are rewarded for their efforts with a swift execution.
Now, however, the movement to confront such barbarity is gathering pace as rescued greyhounds – galgos in Spanish – become more and more popular among hipster communities and city dwellers in northern Spain.
As many as 2,000 animals are saved each year. Finding new homes for them used to be difficult, but not any more. According to Anna Clements, the co-founder and director of SOS Galgos, it is becoming more common to see young couples walking the dogs in Barcelona. “It is uplifting to see a happy galgo being walked in the city instead of how it used to be, when they miserably roamed the streets in search of food and water.”
Rescuing galgos in distress is not always easy or possible. “We all know that someone who is cruel to an animal can become violent towards people and unfortunately hunting is widespread and popular in rural areas of Spain, so dealing with hunters is very unpleasant,” says Clements, while
‘It is uplifting to see a happy galgo being walked in the city’
taking part in a rescue operation in southern Spain.
Sometimes, dogs are rescued following a call from a member of the public. But sometimes dog owners get in touch themselves, Clements says. “They use emotional blackmail on the phone, saying ‘if you don’t take my useless dogs I’ll have to get rid of them’.”
“There is a huge loop[hole] in the legal system that enables hunters to do as they please with their dogs and there is no concern from the authorities whatsoever.”
Klea Levin, a Swedish former model and galgo activist, has also noticed a rise in interest in rescued greyhounds. “For a long time our awareness campaigns highlighted the horrible ways in which greyhounds are treated, showing images of mistreated dogs. This mobilised people from animal protection associations,” she says. “We realised, however, that we would reach a wider audience if we talked about this terrible situation but showed greyhounds as they really are – elegant and beautiful.”
Levin has used her villa in the foothills of the Tibidabo mountain, in Barcelona’s exclusive Sant Gervasi neighbourhood, as a temporary home for rescue dogs: currently two greyhounds, Jungle and Nico, are awaiting adoption.
Levin believes that the attitude towards greyhounds in big cities has changed since she arrived in Barcelona two decades ago. She says: “We see more and more greyhounds in the street. Not only has it become normal, but it has become something fashionable: my neighbourhood is full of elegant greyhounds.”
Marc Velasco and Marta Huguet are the founders of Brott Barcelona. They design collars for “modern dogs” and have two adopted galgos – Brot and Penny.
“The owners care about the quality and style of the accessories because they mirror their lifestyle,” says Huguet.
Clements says there is still a long way to go. Tens of thousands of creatures are thought to be destroyed in southern Spain alone every year.
“We strive to maintain a balance, to not only do rescue, but also to work equally at lobbying for the situation to change,” she says.
Hounds of love Klea Levin with some of her rescued dogs