Unemployment and death of elderly people by covid justify the growth of this crime. PSP and GNR investigated 667 complaints between January and August this year.

Abandonment of pets has skyrocketed in major cities across the country. The growth of cases investigated by the PSP and the GNR is mainly due to the death of the elderly by covid-19 and the increase in unemployment caused by the pandemic. Most of the crimes occurred in Lisbon, Porto, Setúbal and Leiria.

Maria Quaresma dos Reis points out those two justifications for the growth of crimes of abandonment in recent months, namely in the capital. “Many elderly people who died by covid lived alone with cats. The family members, due to financial incapacity, did not welcome the cats, who end up going to the street”, declares the animal provider in Lisbon. In some cases, covid victims no longer had a family and animals eased loneliness.

SOS Animal recognizes the phenomenon of abandonment fuelled by the pandemic, but does not risk saying that the increase was due to deaths by covid-19. Sandra Duarte Cardoso, president of that association, points to the absence of studies on this issue, but admits that the death of the owners of dogs and cats has a meaning in their abandonment.

“There are cases in which the keepers die of various health complications and the families do not welcome the animals, leaving them to be abandoned. As the crime is attributed only to the keepers of the animals, the families are not responsible”, he laments. Loss of income also precipitates the practice of this crime.

SOS Animal and the Lisbon Animal Ombudsman point out that the financial inability to pay rent on houses in large cities causes residents to move and leave animals behind. The destination of dogs and cats becomes the streets.

The data, provided by GNR and PSP to JN, point to 667 cases of abandonment of pets, since the beginning of the year and until the end of August, throughout the national territory. Most of the situations occurred in urban centres, under the jurisdiction of the PSP. In the same period last year, the cases did not reach 500.

Animal mistreatment, on the other hand, follows the reverse trend across the country, with a special focus on the area under the protection of the PSP. In 2019, there were 538 crimes under investigation in urban centres. Currently, agents are investigating 377 cases.

Maria Quaresma dos Reis believes that this reduction in crimes of mistreatment can be explained by the thickening of affective bonds between people and animals during the quarantine period. There may also be cases where crimes are not reported. For example, “in situations of domestic violence, the victim watches cruelty, but does not report it to the authorities for fear of the aggressor”, identifies the provider.

“In many homes, quarantine and teleworking have strengthened the effective ties between animals and their keepers, avoiding many situations of abuse, such as violence or the lack of food and drink,” he says. Already

Sandra Duarte Cardoso understands that the number of cases under investigation does not reflect the real dimension of the problem. “Despite the fact that the authorities are increasingly aware of these situations, they face problems in the investigation, such as the lack of space to accommodate animals in overcrowded kennels or the unavailability of veterinarians to monitor the operations”.

Original article JN