As an expat and a dog lover, the way that dogs and other animals are treated in Spain often distresses me. As far as dogs are concerned, with the help from expats from other countries, much has been learned about animal welfare, and although the number of dogs abandoned each year remains at appalling high levels, in my experience, cases of cruelty are now being listened to and usually acted upon, although there remain some distressing exceptions.

A few days ago, I received an email from Pat, an Irish expat living in Spain’s Costa del Sol. Pat and her partner, Paul, had been walking their small terrier, Susie, on some waste land earlier in the day. This was something that the couple did once or twice each day, because although they lived in a villa, it was small and lacked enough space for a lively terrier to chase around in. Susie, a friendly, but not the most reliable of dogs, was chasing her ball at the end of a long extending lead, when a large German Shepherd dog appeared and began to attack the small dog. Paul ran after Susie, and quickly picked up the small dog, who was bleeding around her neck and front legs and was clearly in some pain. The German Shepherd then began to viciously attack Paul, who was still holding Susie, and knocked him to the ground.

Pat was frantic and was calling for help as she tried to beat the dog off Paul and Susie with her large handbag. Eventually, the owner of the German Shepherd appeared, called the dog, but it ignored her. Other dog walkers appeared and rushed to help the struggling couple. Eventually the German Shepherd was pulled off Paul by its German owner, leaving Paul badly injured with severe lacerations to his arm, legs and face.

The incident was reported to the police, the owner tracked down and the German Shepherd was destroyed. George spent two days in hospital, not only recovering from severe bites, but also a reoccurrence of his heart condition. Susie remained in the veterinary hospital receiving treatment for severe lacerations, with some doubt as to whether one of her legs will function properly again. Meanwhile, the expat German owner of the dog faces prosecution, as well as a large claim for damages.

This incident reminds me of several attacks by dogs that I too have witnessed. Many expats live in small apartments or small properties, wish to have a dog and often purchase one that grows to a far bigger size than originally intended, or the ‘macho’ thing creeps in whereby they just have to have a big dog, regardless of the fact that they have no outdoor space, and are too lazy to exercise it regularly. Many dogs, of all sizes, lack regular walks and exercise and, as a result, have an abundance of pent up energy and frustration that causes the kind of trouble experienced by Pat and Paul. As Pat said, it was not the fault of the dog, but the fault of the owners.

Whether you are an expat or not, the message from this distressing story is clear, unless you wish to be faced with a large claim for damages and injury, or the distress of having your dog destroyed, don’t get a large one if you live in an apartment, or any dog. If you must have a dog, make sure that you can look after it, ensure that it is exercised regularly and don’t leave it on its own in an apartment barking all day. If you cannot do this, get stick insects.