, The thorough cleansing programme was conducted by council workers who toured the souks and city streets to entice stray dogs and cats with poisoned food or to shoot them with venomous darts. They were then taken, dead or alive, by refuse carts to be dumped in landfills where survivors starved to death. A similar exercise was earlier carried out in Quatar where FIFA also turned a blind eye to the maltreatment of immigrant workers who were regarded as “beasts of burden”.

But the East. with its habitual customs of eating what the West terms “pets” and using their hides for clothing, does not have the monopoly of terrorism towards animals which is often supposed. Their mistreatment is historically the greatest blot upon our so-called civilizations wherever located and currently shows no sign of abatement.

Warfare has been the greatest motivator of such cruelty. During and after the 1871 siege of Paris dogs, horses and donkeys were slaughtered to provide meat for the masses. So also were the inhabitant animals of the Zoo and dishes were added to the menus of fashionable restaurants (such as zebra stew and roasted elephant) more, probably, because of a desire to demonstrate French culinary versatility than to assuage the pangs of hunger.

But this destruction of pets pales into insignificance when one recalls the horrific slaughter which took place in Britain at the outbreak of WW2 . In response to a misguided government directive, at least a million household animals were massacred at veterinary culling stations in the mistaken belief that they would be a burden to a nation at war because of consuming vitals. Famously, the Battersea Home for Dogs and Cats managed to save and care for more than 100.000 animals during the war years and was responsible for the purchase of fields at Enfield where carcasses of the unfortunately slaughtered could be interred.

And so, it continues globally. Portugal is no exception. Animal Rescue societies are able to recount horrific cases of maltreatment, often deliberately malicious, in which they have been able to intervene but those are probably in a minority because most acts of violence and cruelty take place clandestinely.

For this reason, it is opportune to applaud and support the determined efforts of the political party PAN (People, Animals and Nature) and animal rights organizations to reform the civil code which momentarily is in a hiatus. New legislation is needed to avoid the many loopholes which were found in the previous attempts to guard the rights of creatures of whatever species but particularly so in the case of “animals of estimation”.

One positive step would be to introduce a licensing system whereby intending owners would be required to pass a simple test to show that they are conversant with aspects of health care and public responsibility. Another would be to require that each animal is examined annually by a veterinary surgeon to ensure that vaccinations are in order and to spot any signs of ill-health , starvation and other maltreatment.

Administration and enforcement powers have recently been transferred to the CCDR (Commissions for Regional Co-ordination) while the ICNF (Institute for conservation of Nature) remains responsible for “animal policies). Both entities have slow bureaucratic processes. What is desirable is for the reputable animal rescue associations and PAN to become empowered to deal with matters at a local level subject to assistance of the GNR or PSP. Together they may exercise the loving care which is merited by our four-footed friends.

by email Roberto Cavaleiro, Tomar