Spanish photographer seeks to help abandoned pets

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MADRID (Reuters) - Emilio Cuenca makes a living taking portraits of pets but in his spare time snaps rescue animals, hoping that his pictures will encourage people to adopt mistreated and abandoned dogs and cats.

The photographer has volunteered for various animal welfare organisations in his native Spain and also gives free photography courses to animal shelter staff.

"Photography is very important when adopting dogs because the main way of showing them is through social media or websites," he said.

More than 138,000 dogs and cats were rescued in Spain last year, according to the Affinity Foundation for animal welfare, which cited unwanted litters, dogs abandoned at the end of the hunting season and financial reasons as some of the causes.

Only 18 percent of them were returned to their owners after being lost, Affinity said.

Affinity's figures for the number of rescued pets could be only half the true number, Spain's animal rights party PACMA says, as its research only includes data from non-governmental animal rescue organisations and not from municipal dog pounds.

Photographing a playful French bulldog in a Madrid park, Cuenca says his aim with the animal shelter project is "to give the dogs something in return for what they give me ... and above all help dogs that are in critical situations".

"The intention is to send out a message against mistreatment and abandonment of dogs, and that they be given the place they deserve in our country and in families," he said.

(Reporting by Reuters Television; Writing by Catherine Macdonald; Editing by Catherine Evans)

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