From 25th to 28th May I returned to Portugal to work with CFAF’s partner organisation, Animais de Rua (AdR) to provide 22 of their volunteers with TNR training and to work with the organisation to help them build further on their already substantial success.
CFAF has been working closely with AdR since we began and I had been working with them for several years before that, during my days at WSPA.
Animais de Rua (which means ‘animals of the street’) was born in 2005 when a group of friends in Porto saw a colony of feral cats living in precarious and pitiable conditions and decided that they needed to do something to help them. It quickly became clear that there was little help available, as back in 2005 helping feral cats was not an issue being worked on much in Portugal. Rather than get discouraged, they searched the internet to look for ideas, and found information about TNR projects and how they were being used elsewhere to successfully help feral cat colonies.
The friends planned out what was required to undertake such a task themselves. They contacted local vets and raised money through friends and family to catch, neuter, treat and release the entire colony of 45 cats. After seeing how the lives and welfare of these cats had been so improved by what they had done they decided that they could not simply stop there, and so looked for other colonies that they could also help. Today, 8 years later, Animais de Rua has sterilized and treated over 11,300 animals across Portugal!
From these humble beginnings AdR has become one of Portugal’s most recognised and respected animal welfare organisatons. TNR is still at the core of what they do but they have become so much more than that. They lobby for change and work with local authorities, veterinarians, communities and NGOs to address cat and dog cruelty and welfare problems throughout Portugal. They run successful fostering and adoption programmes as well as school education programmes and public awareness campaigns.
AdR’s CEO, Maria Pinto Teixeira, is one of those original friends that founded the organisation. She has been the heart and soul of the organisation and their guiding star. Her dedication, unfailing belief in the cause of animal welfare and ability to inspire an exceptional group of volunteers has been central to their success.
It was with Maria and a core group of AdR’s fantastic volunteers that I spent four days in the beautiful and tranquil surroundings Quinta Das Aguias, in northern Portugal, to work with them on training and support.
AdR is now a national organisation and has groups not only in Porto but in Lisbon and the Algarve. They even work in the Azores! The volunteers came from all these places to attend the workshop and their enthusiasm and commitment was palpable and infectious.
I have often thought that the term ‘volunteer’ does a disservice to people who frequently work far harder and more passionately than those who are paid for a task. Never has this been more the case than with the volunteers of AdR.
We spent the four days looking at every aspect of the work they do - from the practical side of TNR to the structure and development of the organisation itself. We explored areas including fundraising, the growth of their educational programmes, policy development and expanding their adoption programmes.
One of AdR’s great successes is their adoption programme, which has evolved organically over several years. AdR use a network of fosterers and volunteers along with websites and social media to find new homes for animals without them ever needing to spend a single day in a shelter. There are comprehensive and stringent checks and processes in place to ensure the animals find the best possible home and as a result, last year they were able to find permanent, secure and loving homes for over 300 animals!
The four-day workshop was intensive and incredibly rewarding. So much ground was covered and many plans were made to build upon. AdR has achieved so much in a relatively short space of time and based on the passion and dedication of those attending the workshop, it will continue to make substantial and real improvements to the lives of animals in Portugal and beyond. And CFAF will be working alongside them every step of the way.
When I was back in Porto, I was taken to visit that original colony of cats from back in 2005. After 8 years, there are only 10 of the 45 cats remaining but as a managed colony they are healthy, happy and cared for. They are a living testament to the work of AdR and what they are able to achieve.
Thank you to all the AdR volunteers (those I have met and those I have yet to meet) for your hard work and dedication. Thank you to Ivone and Joep for their incredible hospitality and truly wonderful vegan food! Thank you to our friends at International Cat Care for helping fund this workshop and thank you to Maria Pinto Teixeira, for your unwavering professionalism, commitment and belief.