I traveled from Chicago, IL, USA, to Seville, Spain, to spend ten days living in the shelter with 500 plus dogs to photograph many of the Galgos, Podencos, and other breeds that were fortunate enough to make it to their shelter.
In 2009, Fundacion Benjamin Mehnert (FBM) began operating a shelter in Spain for abused and abandoned Galgos (aka Spanish Greyhounds). An estimated 100,000 Galgos are abandoned at the end of hunting season each year. FBM’s mission is to rescue, rehabilitate, and rehome Galgos and bring attention to the mass abuse of this noble breed.
To address the problem of abuse and abandonment, Fundacion Benjamin Mehnert (FBM) was founded to provide a place where Galgos can receive medical treatment, nourishment, and socialization to be placed in homes eventually. The FBM staff often participates in the field and highway rescue of Galgos; the highly skilled veterinary staff treats broken bones and many other injuries, diseases, and malnutrition in the animals brought to the shelter.
There are usually between 400 and 700 dogs in the shelter outside Alcala de Guadaira, near Seville. However, that number increases to as many as 900 dogs at the end of the hunting season. Dogs are never euthanized unless all medical possibilities have been exhausted and death is inevitable. The FBM staff strives to make every dog healthy, and extraordinary effort is made to find it a permanent loving home.
There are several extreme abuse cases that FBM has dealt with, and while I was there, I got caught up in the recovery of several of these dogs.
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Colossus arrived at FBM with chemical abrasion burns all over his body. When he was rescued, he was infested with ticks and fleas, and he also had pyoderma, a massive skin infection
Colossus arrived at FBM with chemical abrasion burns all over his body. He had allergic dermatitis to flea and tick bites, and when FBM rescued him, he was infested with them, and he also had pyoderma, a massive skin infection. Two people saw him wandering the streets and contacted FBM. The rescue team went out to find him, and they did not stop until they found and rescued him. Based on the information somebody told them, it appears that he was doused with acid.
Two people saw him wandering the streets and contacted FBM. The rescue team went out to find him, and they did not stop until they found and rescue him. It appears that he was doused with acid
The Spanish greyhound, and Podencos, are two of the most persecuted breeds, but very few people have ever heard of these rare dog breeds. They are used as Hunting Dogs to catch hares in the Spanish countryside. They spend their lives in damp, tiny, dirty holes or windowless shacks deprived of daylight, exercise, and affection. Between 50.000 and 100.000 Galgos are killed or abandoned every year after the hunting season when they no longer live up to their owners’ expectations. The breeders, the so-called galgueros, breed hoping to end up with the best hunting dog to compete and hunt the hare, but overbreeding leads to the “throwing out” of thousands and thousands of Galgos and Podencos every year.
After several months in the FBM medical ward under the care of the veterinarian staff, Colossus was able to make a full recovery
In the EU, decisions on animal welfare standards for pet animals are left to the national level, which means that Spain cannot be obliged directly by means of EU legislation to improve the situation of hunting dogs.
The abandoned dogs often die of starvation or injuries, and if they are caught, they are mainly brought to municipal killing stations. A few are rescued by shelters where they are rehabilitated, after which they have a chance to find a forever home. Unfortunately, many Spaniards consider Galgos unsuitable as companion animals, so most Galgos are adopted abroad.
Love heals all wounds
The veterinarians, handlers, medical assistants, and support staff are highly dedicated at Fundacion Benjamin Mehnert (FBM), and they place the animal’s welfare above all else. There is an intensive care clinic on the premises, equipped operating rooms, an X-ray lab, quarantine, and hospital recovery areas. There are open-air enclosures for dogs recovering from injuries, and there are outdoor exercise areas. Every dog admitted to the FBM shelter receives a name, regardless of how injured or sick the dog may be.
In July, Brad, a visibly very sick Galgo, was spotted in the area of Huelva
A lady contacted the team of “SOS Rescue Sevilla” and the members Mónica and Victoria immediately went to secure the boy
Thankfully, a local lady was already able to lock the boy up in a securable area and Mónica and Victoria took over the rescue
Brad is still recovering in the medical ward. His visible wounds are healing, but his mental wounds will take much longer
A young Podenco named Sky rescued with a metal wire embedded in his neck
Various parts of the cable were embedded under the skin itself. Because of his young age, they believe that that cable could have been put on him when he was still a puppy, and nobody never took it off again
In his eyes you can only see terror. He bows his head and runs away when we try to get closer
Sky’s physical wounds are healing, but it will take some time for this young boy to trust people again
Fede was found in Malaga Spain with a very serious wound to his front leg which they believe is from a hunter’s snare trap
Fede tried to escape the trap and this ripped most of the skin of this paw and leg. His leg had necrotic parts and part of the bones exposed
Fede’s leg is healing, and skin is starting to grow and close the wound
This little dog named Khaleesi, is approx. 3 months old and was found, secured and taken to FBM by 2 FBM workers on a rural property
It was quickly clear that all four legs are deformed and affected the spine. The primary reason for this is malnutrition. She now enjoys the care, good food and soft puppy beds of FBM
Khaleesi doesn’t know that she is handicapped and is a connoisseur of life
Other dogs recovering at Fundacion Bejamin Mehnert Medical Ward
The morning I was leaving the shelter, there was a large transport of dogs heading to Germany, Belgium, and France. I wanted to document the staff’s connection with the dogs they have cared for and now have to say goodbye to them. They know they will go to loving homes and have a life full of love, but it is bittersweet. This is the final stage of their rescue, a forever home.
Alberto, the lead dog behaviorist for FBM
I headed back to Madrid to prepare for my flight back to Chicago, and I would be transporting four Galgos back to Chicago. The day before my flight home, I had to get a Covid test; I spent the rest of the day going through the 2500 images I shot at the shelter. The following day, I headed to the airport to meet the volunteer bringing the dogs to the airport.
Puppies that were rescued now at FBM
Podenco named Salma
During this trip, I met Salma, who was in the same kennel as Pumba. Salma reminded me of two of our dogs, Gemma and Circe, who passed away after being with us for three months. She pushed a window open and was hit by a car two blocks from our house while we were at work. I sent a picture of her to my wife, Amanda, and she already wanted her. I wanted to save room in our house to foster dogs when we transported them to Chicago. I tried to ignore Salma, but she followed me around the kennel, and when she was in the medical ward after being spayed, she would follow me as I cleaned. I could not get her out of my mind, and I knew I would regret it if I did not bring her home. Salma will be joining our pack on November 18th.
Pumba, Andre, and Minon are already reserved and will be joining their forever homes before Thanksgiving.
Pumba is one of the dogs I transported back to Chicago with me, and her new family came by my studio to sign the adoption agreement, and I was able to take a couple of photos of her.
Podenco named Matias
Little Podenco named Pistolin
Podenco relaxing in his kennel
Galgo named Omar
In the end, I’m glad I got to be there
About me: I’m an internationally renowned dog photographer Travis Patenaude of Stink-Eye Photography. I create unique portraits that foster an emotional connection between the subject and the viewer. I believe emotions and feelings are a vital part of telling stories and have to be put in a form that touches people to evoke empathy and have the viewer want to learn more about these dogs. I’m an advocate for animal rescue and animal rights, in particular, raising awareness for the plight of the hunting dogs of Spain. I have won international awards and have been published across international print, online media, and magazines.
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