Up to 50,000 greyhounds have been left to die in Spain at the end of hunting season, animal rights campaigners have claimed.
They say thousands of the dogs are abandoned at the end of the season by cruel hunters who discard them to avoid paying for food to keep them alive.
It is estimated that there are 200,000 “galgueros”, who own up to ten working dogs – or “galgos” – each, and that about 50,000 are abandoned after the hunting season is over.
Spain’s hunting season for small game runs between October and February and sees hunters go after grouse, pheasants and rabbits.
The galgos are used for hare coursing, which is banned in the UK. In Spain, it is illegal to hunt outside the season, so hunters discard their dogs.
The animals are thrown down wells, tied to railway lines or left at the side of busy roads, campaigners say.
The Mail Online reported that charities struggle to cope with the large numbers of abandoned dogs.
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Anna Clements, who is originally from Manchester, saves 350 dogs a year through the charity SOS Galgos.
She told the Mail Online: “This is Spain’s dirty secret and something tourists rarely see.
“We are expecting an influx of thousands of abandoned dogs but we, and other charities, cannot cope. We cannot save them all.
“They are brutally treated when the hunters have finished with them – some are thrown down wells and the well opening is blocked off with wood.
“But some survive and we had one recently who was saved when a passer-by heard her cries.
“She was lying in water at the bottom of the well, was badly malnourished and had deep gashes on her neck.
“The fire brigade was able to winch her to safety and she is now recovering with a family where she is a loved pet.”
The galgos are regarded as working dogs and are exempt from animal welfare laws which cover pets.
“They are often kept in dungeons in the dark for most of the day and fed poorly so they are more eager from prey when they are let out,’ said Ms Clements.
“The lucky ones are found and have a chance – others are left to die, often alone, in excruciating pain.
“Galgos are naturally calm, loving and gentle animals but they are deprived of all love and don’t know what that is.
“The ones that survive are deeply traumatised and have trust issues to begin with but we can re-home them and give them the lives they deserve.”