LA PALMA, Spain, October 6 (Reuters) – The moans of caged dogs mingle with the chatter of giggling hens at a makeshift animal shelter on the Spanish island of La Palma, hastily set up to relocate hundreds of homeless animals when their owners fled the Cumbre Vieja volcano.
Members of the Benawara Plant and Animal Protection Society began scouring the island in search of potential foster homes in the days leading up to the eruption.
But when the extent of the damage became evident, they stepped up their efforts and turned a playground into a coordination center.
“We took about 140 dogs, maybe a little more, 60 or 70 cats, goats, sheep, parrots … everything,” said Esau Fumero, dog trainer and deputy director of the organization, which seeks to place animals in shelters as soon as possible.
Some animals come from families who evacuated but were unable to take their animals to temporary accommodation, while others are dropped off by police and rescuers.
With the rash showing no signs of slowing down, caring for pets is a long-term problem, said Fumero, a multicolored tower of packets of animal feed piled up behind him.
Maria Hernandez, 55, lost her home to lava that has been flowing from the mountain to the ocean for more than two weeks, destroying more than 1,000 homes and forcing more than 6,000 to evacuate.
After initially finding a home for her three little dogs, she was forced to take the youngest – a seven-year-old Staffordshire Bull Terrier – to the rescue center when he began to fight with the other two.
“We come every day after we finish work. In the morning before work, anytime we can be with him,” she said.
Fighting back tears, she told Reuters how the situation had left her overwhelmed and frustrated.
“We don’t know how long this is going to last and he’s like a member of our family… Everything that happens to us is so great.”
Reporting by Miguel Pereira; Written by Nathan Allen; Editing by Giles Elgood
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