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Sunday, December 11, 2016
Spanish pets flock to church
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 Thousands of cats, dogs, guinea pigs, hamsters and rabbits went to church last Wednesday for their annual blessing on the the feast of St Antony, patron saint of animals. Traffic came to a standstill as the pets - many adorned with ribbons, bells and football colours - were escorted to church doorways for their blessing. They were also given special rolls marked with a cross. In the Spanish countryside too, farm animals received their splash of holy water. The custom was banned for many years because it caused such traffic chaos. It was reintroduced in 1980 and the authorities now simply shut down roads to prevent traffic problems. Animal rights groups in the Spanish capital used the day to hold a street exhibition. Photographs and posters publicised the plight of thousands of pets abandoned every year, especially after Christmas and during the long summer holidays. Campaigner Isabel Cuellar said: "Last year, 60 per cent of puppies were abandoned. This is normal in Spain. We do not have much respect for animals yet here. Things are changing but fur is still very popular here." Note: The feast of St Antony of Padua is celebrated in the UK on 13 June.
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