The Canary Islands have been an oasis for ocean travelers for centuries. A volcanic archipelago located in the Atlantic Ocean 100 km off the coast of Morocco, the Canaries have been home to the Phoenicians, the Greeks, the Portuguese and finally the Spanish. With seven large islands surrounded by several smaller ones, the Canaries feature many outdoor attractions such as beaches and mountains and the islands hold four of Spain’s 13 national parks. The easternmost island of Lanzarote is the fourth largest with over 800 thousand people calling it home. Lanzarote is also home to the Association for the Protection of Animals, known locally as SARA.
Andrea Borner is the Vice Presidenta of SARA and talked with the International Pet Examiner about this well-established organization.
SARA was founded in 1986 by a group of four women who were concerned about the condition of stray animals on the island and the number of abused and neglected animals since there were no animal cruelty laws at that time. The women took over a local dog run that already contained 40 dogs. According to Borner, the shelter was just a large pen with all the dogs kept together. In June of 1986 the Canarian Parliament passed the Animal Protection Act, which gave SARA the foundation to carry out their anti-cruelty campaign. With the law on their side, they were able to grow the shelter into the organization it is today.
Currently the shelter provides a home to 200 dogs and 100 cats. Another 50 cats are in foster care with volunteers. The shelter also provides veterinary care for the animals as well as an outdoor play area, special puppy and kitten zones and offices for a staff of six.
“The shelter started off with just one big dog run, but over the years it has turned into a nice shelter with lots of possibilities,” says Borner.
Over the last 27 years, the shelter has seen an improvement in the stray and abandoned pet population.
"You do not see so many homeless dogs now,” she says. “If there is one, it is usually taken into SARA very quick. Also the laws changed for micropchips, more people now chip their dogs, and therefore can’t just throw them out any more. There are still many wild cats on the island, but also this seems to be more controlled now, due to our castration campaigns that we do throughout the whole year.”
Although conditions have improved, there is still much work to do. SARA began a community awareness campaign in 2002 to teach pet responsibility to school children and they continue to pursue any violations of the Animal Protection Act. They also help people with pet questions, such as help with training, traveling with pets, or kenneling dogs. They also assist those who can no longer keep their pets, mostly for those moving away. With little to no government funding, SARA relies on donations, volunteers and memberships to keep going. Anyone can be a SARA member starting at only 5€ a month ($6.50 US). Visit their website for more information.
For those spending a holiday on Lanzarote, SARA always welcome volunteers.
“They can come to give our dogs a walk or a wash, help in the cattery, go to our fundraising projects,” says Borner. “The only thing they need to do is pass by our shelter and write themselves in (at the front desk).”
To understand why islanders like Borner support SARA, the thousands of animals they have helped make it all worthwhile.
“The fact of giving them a second chance,” says Borner. “This is what keeps you going, what keeps you strong and what makes you never give up.”
Don’t miss out! Subscribe to the International Pet Examiner and get the latest animal information from around the world. Click on the subscribe link at the top of this article and enter your email address. You will be notified by email when a new article is posted. Have a story idea? Email at email@example.com . Find out Where is CD now on Twitter @whereisCDnow.