On February 23rd, the second Edition of the Andalusian Feline Seminar took place in Granada.
More than 200 people coming from the whole Spanish geography attended the event. The conference was intended to be an annual reference meeting for all agents involved in cat welfare and protection in Andalusia. The first edition took place in Cordoba in February 2018.
This year the event was organized by the NGO “La Troupe” (Granada), with the support of “Wally Cordoba” (Cordoba) and “Futur Animal” (Barcelona). The main sponsors of the event were TASSO e.V , CAROcat and Royal Canin Spain.
Andalusia is a region where animals in general are suffering, and where stray and feral cats are still treated as pest in numerous cities, although things are now changing and TNR programs flourish around the region.
2019 is a year of elections in Spain (general elections will take place in April, municipal and european elections in May) and the conference was a good opportunity to put feral cat welfare on the political agendas.
The conference started with a Welcome Message from Becky Robinson, CEO of Alley Cat Allies, pointing out that to make an effective TNR it is also necessary to learn to work with people (neighbors, authorities, etc…).
For the opening session of the conference Maya Huerta, representative of the association “La Troupe”, organizer of the conference, was accompanied by Mercedes Vara from the NGO Wally Cordoba and Joan Capdevilla, Deputy at the Spanish Congress, Veterinarian and member of the APDDA (Parliamentary Association in Defense of the Rights of Animals) .
1- CRISTINA BECARES “Radiography of the current animal welfare regulations and improvement proposals”
During her talk lawyer Cristina Bécares reviewed the current municipal regulations, and insisted on the municipalities’ obligation to take responsibility and to control the sanitary status of the environment and public health issues, in compliance with the Local Regime Law (1985).
Bécares talked about a “legislative vicious circle” in which many city councils seem to be trapped. As feral cats are outside the autonomous legal framework – there is no reference to stray or feral cats in the Law, which only considers animals under possession- some municipalities declare they cannot include feral cats nor TNR in their regulations).
Bécares does not agree with this position, and she explained that municipal ordinances can perfectly include TNR programs and the definition of feral cats without having to wait for the new Andalusian Animal Protection Law currently under revision : municipalities cannot stay still, they have to take action.
1- GABRIEL BUSTILLO “The relocation of cat colonies”
During his talk the veterinarian Gabriel Bustillo, shelter medicine expert, argued against the relocation of cat colonies. Bustillo stated that "the relocation, besides being very stressful for cats, and very expensive, present no guarantee of success. The risk of failure is very high. It should always be the last option, and if chosen, a very strict protocol needs to be followed".
Bustillo took the opportunity to reiterate that the withdrawal of cats for their relocation or killing has never worked: it generates a “vacum effect”and there is always a new population coming. The old killing method has been in place for more than 30 years now, and the feline over- population is still an issue in Spain
3- PANEL DISCUSSION “Update on the situation of cats in the 8 Andalusian provinces”
During the round table session a representative of each of the 8 Andalusian provinces presented an update of the legal situation of feral cats, issues affecting their welfare, progresses already made and future challenges.
During the session it was evidenced that the municipal regulations are contrasted, despite hanging from the same Animal Protection Law at a regional level. As an example, the situations in three provincial capitals:
- Almería City Council still says it will not be possible to include TNR and feral cats in the local regulations until the Andalusian Animal Protection Law allows it (although a draft ordinance in which one can find those is available on the city website) . The same occurs in Sevilla, Jaen, and Cadiz.
- Málaga includes the management of colonies and the definition of the feral cat in an ordinance, although it stipulates that it will be totally legal as soon as the Andalusian Law contemplates the feral cat and TNR method. However the municipal TNR program has been a reality for more than 2 years in Málaga. A similar situation can be found in Cordoba.
- In Granada, the recently published draft Ordinance includes the definition of the feral cat and the management of colonies. This will enable NGOs and the municipality to implement a municipal TNR program very soon, as soon as the new ordinance will be officially approved.
The psychologist Victoria Lacalle talked about respect and violence towards animals. Lacalle claimed the later often prefigures violence and abuse in general, towards animals or human beings.
The psychologist talked about the opportunity to manage feral cat colonies to better educate children improving their social skills and emotional intelligence.
Lacalle said that “The current “Revolution of empathy "coming from the animals’ rights movement will benefit the whole society, protecting children from violence”.
5- ANGELES DOVAL and NOEMI BAZARRA “Beyond TNR: building awareness”.
During their talk, the representatives of the association “Micos De Barrio” explained the work done in Santiago de Compostela to raise awareness about feral cats and the ethical management of cat colonies. The objective of the association is to make citizens part of the TNR program.
Getting people to participate in the management of colonies has been a success: through workshops, talks, sessions in schools, and campaigns to promote their volunteers, the visibility of the TNR in Santiago has greatly improved.
6- LOS 4 DE LA EMPANADILLA “Difficult rescue situation: how to be successful”
The final session of the day, was a practical workshop on difficult cat rescues, such as cats in cars motors, trees or sewers.
The Madrid NGO “Los 4 de la Empanadilla” showed examples of successful rescue cases, and explain the importance to work with a good planning and the right tools in such cases.
Attendees left the conference with a lot of information and a long “to do” list which starts with the political lobby as first priority. The event gave them the opportunity to meet with other people and share experiences, projects and challenges.
The situation of feral cats of Andalusia remains precarious, and improvements are urgently needed, as many feral cats are still killed in public pounds every day. Networking, training and information are vital in order to work better for cats.
Conference organizers believe that "Thanks to events like the Andalusian Feline Seminar volunteers will certainly be able to continue their hard work in better conditions, feeling less alone and more motivated than ever".
The organizers thanked the sponsors who made this conference a reality: TASSO e.V; Royal Canin; CAROcat; Caja Granada; Patronato de la Alhambra y Generalife; Diputación de Granada; Athisa; Restaurante Arriaga, and a few veterinary clinics located in Granada.
Due to the success of the event, an appointment is already made for the third edition, in 2020. Date and place to be confirmed in the coming months.