12th Jun 2022 @ 11:35 am

Justin Kerswell, SARA volunteer photographer, introduces us to one of Lanzarote’s most well-loved and ill-used animals – the Podenco.

If you have spent any time in Lanzarote – or any of the other Canary Islands for that matter –the chances are you will have seen a podenco. These sleek, athletic, distinctive-looking dogs are iconic here. However, their use and abuse has long been a bone of contention for many islanders, both old and new. Thankfully, there are individuals and organisations, such as SARA, that promote awareness and protect these loving, gentle hounds.

Legend says that the podenco arrived with the earliest settlers to the islands from North Africa. However, genetic analysis suggests that they are related to other dogs traditionally used for hunting across Europe. Until recently, most Canarians would view them as working dogs, and they are still typically used for hunting rabbits across the islands.

While some who use podencos in this way may treat their animals well, abandonment is also a constant problem. Anyone who has had the pleasure to walk the breed will know that they love nothing better than a cat-and-mouse game with lizards in the shrubbery. However, some do not possess this hunting aptitude and can be abandoned simply for this reason.

Similar to greyhounds in the UK, the podenco can go from a hundred miles an hour outside to a happily slumbering bundle of chill inside a house. They are typically friendly, gentle – and above all – trusting animals. Their sense of fun and adventure is infectious, and they make devoted companions.

This is why it is heartbreaking to see them sometimes thrown away like trash. In the case of little Ivone, almost literally. This young, small-sized female with eyes that plead for affection was found wandering amongst the rubbish at the Zonzamas dump. Thankfully she was found and taken in by SARA and is now looking for a second chance through adoption. Another, named Dream, was rescued after being thrown into a well to die. She was adopted to Italy.

SARA, in Tahiche, has been providing shelter for Lanzarote’s abandoned cats and dogs since 1986. Usually 60-70% of all dogs in the shelter at any one time are podencos or podenco crosses. SARA actively rehome these dogs abroad and, with rapidly-changing

attitudes, here on Lanzarote, too. Often these dogs have physical injuries and mental trauma from mistreatment. It takes patience, dedication and money to gain their trust again. However, it is testament to the gentle temperament of podencos that they do adapt and thrive in new homes.

SARA works with organisations that rehome podencos across Europe. Adoptions to the UK can be costlier and involve more red tape, but are possible and happen successfully each year. So, if you are interested in potentially giving one of these beautiful hounds a new home please contact them to discuss (English spoken) on (+34) 928 17 34 17 or email info@sara-lanzarote.eu. You can also view which animals are available for adoption and details of dog walking for the public on their website saraprotectora.org.

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