With three million euros invested in a state-of-the-art animal shelter, Sid Richardson has a dream and together with his talented team, he’s working hard to make it a reality.
It’s a fabulous setup. A shelter for 100 dogs and 50 cats with heated catteries and kennels. There are 14 play areas for the dogs, all managed by six permanent staff and an army of enthusiastic volunteers. If that wasn’t enough, there are the WOOF charity shops in Almancil and Loulé and a newly launched education programme for local schools. And it’s all been led by one man: Sid Richardson, under the banner of Animal Rescue Algarve (ARA).
So where does this story start? For Sid, he fondly remembers playing as a young child with his grandfather’s dog and, as soon as he was old enough, keeping dogs of his own. As much as he loves Portugal, when he emigrated just over 30 years ago, he soon became dismayed at how certain sections of society treated their animals. Sid started supporting various initiatives with financial donations and was resigned to leaving money in his will to help support them after he was gone. He then had a change of heart. As he said to me, “Why on earth should I wait? I decided to act now.”
In 2017, Sid set about creating ARA, a legally constituted charity association overseen by a board of ten governors. Its objective is to ‘Collect, rehabilitate and rehome dogs and cats in need, prioritising abandoned and/or neglected ones’.
The shelter has been developed into something remarkable – the catteries are cleaner and better furnished than certain apartments I’ve holidayed in! All dogs are walked twice a day and have play areas where they can run freely, encouraging socialisation with other dogs. There’s a maximum of eight dogs per volunteer, so each dog gets plenty of personal attention. It also helps the volunteer get a great sense of the temperament of each dog, something which is important when advising families interested in adopting the dog. The play areas are spacious and include a swimming pool and a sandpit.
Fundamental to ARA’s success has been the work of volunteers, some of whom live locally and help out every week, and others who come on board via the international Workaway scheme. These volunteers, from around the world, get free accommodation in return for six hours work a day over a five-day week. Many return year after year and go on to adopt a dog of their own. As one volunteer told me, “I recommend people spend time here. It’s great for the dogs and cats and for your own body and soul. We’ve been here three weeks and enjoyed every second.”
Sid recognises that taking in abandoned and poorly treated animals is not enough in itself. As he said, “Education is key.” In this respect, he’s helped by general manager João Ferreira, who, in addition to running the shelter, goes out and about, visiting local schools and helping youngsters understand more about animal welfare. Another initiative, supported by Mar Shopping, is aimed at dissuading people from keeping dogs on chains. As João said, “It’s all about changing attitudes.”
As for the future, the shelter is being enlarged to provide even more play space for the dogs. The intention is also to expand the educational programme so that it reaches beyond the Algarve and into the rest of the country. To change thinking throughout the country? It’s a bold move, but they’ve already achieved so much, so who could doubt them?
Far from being barking mad, Sid and João are an inspiration. They are remarkably modest about their achievements and happy to share their learning with other shelters in Portugal and abroad.
Photos © Carlos Filipe
How you can help
- Make a one-off or regular donation to help pay for food and veterinary care.
- Donate high-quality fashion and/or furniture to one of the WOOF charity shops. All proceeds go towards the upkeep and development of the shelter.
- Help out at the shelter or at one of the WOOF shops.
- Take out a Legacy Pet Plan whereby ARA will care for your pet for a donation of your choosing, should you no longer be able to do so.
- Adopt a dog or cat (subject to home checks by the ARA team).
Facts & Figures
- Three million€ invested by Sid Richardson (and still counting!)
- The shelter spends 170.000€ per annum in veterinary fees
- The running costs total 40.000€ per month
- Thirty animals are rescued and rehomed per month
+351 289 462 384
Bank account: PT50.0033.0000.5526891995.05