Press Release : Algarve is about to have one of the biggest animal sanctuaries in Portugal.
Works are underway to build a huge animal rescue centre with a capacity for a total of 600 animals. Leading the project is the newly-formed association Animal Rescue Algarve (ARA) . Centre should be completed in the next 15 months.
There is hardly any good news when the issue concerns abandoned animals in Portugal. But this time it is possible to spread some good news as the Algarve is set to have one of the largest and most modern animal sanctuaries in the country.
The Founder of ARA
Sidney Richardson is the man behind this project and the responsible for providing much of the funding for the rescue centre.
“During my life, I’ve created a certain amount of wealth from my business which involves insurance, property development, restaurants and bars, which will be shared by members of my family and charity equally,” he said. “About 12 years ago, I rescued an amazing dog that became my best friend and has somehow changed my life. Combining this with the disturbing lack of social response for the problematic of the abandoned dogs in this country, and specially in the Algarve, where the responsibility is put on the small drained associations managed by private people trying to do their best with limited resources, made me realise this is the right path to take. So I decided: instead of leaving a substantial sum of money in my will, why don’t I use it now, while I am alive, and see this project through?”, he explains.
The Project and Locations
The project is comprised of three phases. The first phase, called “Cabanita”, will house a small part of the 600 animals before they find their definitive families and will be ready by October. Construction is already taking place at a steady pace. Another two sites have been found and are under consideration to accommodate another 400 animals. One of them should be set soon in São Brás de Alportel.
There is also an agreement between Loulé city council and ARA, in the final stages of approval. Meanwhile, the association is about to sign a protocol with São Brás de Alportel, who has alreadu approved by unanimous votes the construction of the buildings and structure which will take place, as well as a declaration of public and municipal utility infrastructure. Next week will take place the formal cerimony between the city council president and ARA association to sign up a protocol for the management of the new facilities.
The initial 3 animal shelters will be located in central Algarve and each will have the capacity for 200 animals and employ around 25 workers and resident staff 24/7.
The Underling Problem
“It is estimated that there are 10,000 abandoned animals in the Algarve region. Our mission is to help abandoned and sick animals, to provide veterinary treatment, neuter, socialise and re-home them,” explained Richardson.
Because one of the biggest concerns of the association is “to treat animals with dignity, respect and comfort”, Richardson quickly took the decision to “build, from scratch, a rehoming centre of modern and eco-friendly design”.
Facilities will include a reception, waiting room, veterinary office and operating theatre, divided sections for puppies, adult and senior, a quarantine area, a training field to interact with the dogs and a cat shelter.
Accommodation for volunteers (including those coming from abroad) will be built to ensure the sanctuary is surveiled and safely guarded 24/7.
A Dream Realised
Richardson explains that “it is hard not to get emotional when speaking about this project. As a businessman, never any other project has given me such pleasure. It’s very rewarding and fulfilling. It’s my life project”.
Currently managing the sanctuary project is Sue Sykes who spent a great part of my life dedicated to animals.
“We have also been receiving several contacts from volunteers from all over the world wanting to help us, which pleased us very much. ARA provides the accommodation and food in exchange for help with daily tasks around the sanctuary”, she said.
According to Sykes, the goal of the newly formed association is also to inform the local population of the great need to neuter their animals. “It is difficult with the older generation but there is hope with the younger people”, she admits. Allowing the general public to visit and volunteer so animals can socialise with humans, is yet another goal. “We want to encourage schools to bring groups of children to the shelters to show them what we do and how we gain so much companionship and love from caring for an animal”, Sue Sykes explained. Sue Sykes admits that ARA can’t be the solution for all the abandoned animals in the Algarve, estimated to be around 10,000. “However, we hope to give temporary shelter to around 600 animals and keep finding them good and permanent homes. So all the work should not fall over only one association,” said ARA’s manager.
“It is important to acknowledge the crucial work other similar associations are doing with much less resources that we are starting with! We really hope to work and support each other every time it’s necessary as this should be seen as real team work”, she concluded.
Even if the funds for the construction of the sanctuary have already been guaranteed, Richardson explains that “there is no point in funding the development of the animal sanctuary for 600 animals if there is no ongoing income to run, manage and look after them. And for this, we need to create enough interest and support. We need sponsors. We will create proper facilities but we want to involve the council, the public, other institutions and to educate people. We need the contribution of everyone to make this sanctuary sustainable and be an active voice for the animals in the Algarve. We are ready to make the difference and keen on becoming a reference in Europe for good practices, quality and dignity that we provide our animals”.