‘Donkey man’ is back

Mark Lewis.
Mark Lewis.
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A POOLIE ex-pat who hit the headlines when he was left holding the reigns of a Spanish town is back in Hartlepool – and is appealing for animal lovers’ help.

Mark Lewis became known as an “accidental mayor” when he found himself as the only councillor in the town hall of San Fulgencio, south of Alicante, when six colleagues including the mayor and deputy mayor were arrested over corruption allegations.

Mark Lewis with rescue dog Rocco.

Mark Lewis with rescue dog Rocco.

He was the first-ever Brit to be installed as mayor in a Spanish municipality, and his colleagues were later acquitted.

Mark settled in Spain 30 years ago after leaving England for semi-retirement, and was elected as a San Fulgencio town councillor because of his work with abandoned animals, for which he was nicknamed the donkey man.

Now he and his siblings, who have travelled from as far as Canada, are back in town to visit their sick father, Sydney, 86, of Anchor Court on the Headland.

He is using the trip to spread the word about his Pets in Spain animal rescue charity – and is hoping Hartlepool people may be able to help rehome some of them.

Mark, 61, who grew up in Blakelock Road, said: “In Spain, there is no such thing as the RSPCA, or any organisation that has authority or control in upholding the rights of animals – it is all done by volunteers.

“People think there are lots of are animal sanctuaries in Spain, but there are actually very few, and they are killing stations – once a dog goes in there, owners only have 20 days to claim it back.”

Mark, a former insurance manager married to Hartlepool girl Elizabeth, 61, whose maiden name is Tarpey, said he has rescued thousands of pets since 1995 and started out by rescuing abandoned dogs left on the side of main roads.

“If we could just get one animal rehomed in Hartlepool, that would be ideal.”

Anyone wanting more information about Pets in Spain can visit www.petsinspain.com or search for Pets in Spain on Facebook.

The dad to Yvonne, who along with his brother Syd junior, 65, was a Hartlepool Mail paperboy, added: “The countryside in Spain is very harsh and when animals are abandoned, there is no chance of survival.

“They are sometimes found in terrible conditions.”

Mark, who has six rescued dogs and two rescue cats at home, said the situation had been made worse by the economic crisis, when many ex-pats have lost their jobs, returned to England, and abandoned pets.

“We rehome between 30 and 40 pets a month”, he added,

“People in England or Hartlepool might think ‘what’s that got to do with me, but with the advent of social networks, Facebook, helps us rehome animals in England.”

He said every month a vehicle from Spain brings abandoned pets to be rehomed in the UK.

“If we could just get one animal rehomed in Hartlepool, that would be ideal.”

Anyone wanting more information about Pets in Spain can visit www.petsinspain.com or search for Pets in Spain on Facebook.