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Torre da Mosqueira  - Albufeira Paws 4 Pets em Portugal
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Welcome to the Gripes and Groans page
On here we will list those little incidentals which cause us much stress and strain as we try desperately to go about what we always thought were normal daily lives. A normal daily life is defined as sleep, eat, work for 10-15 hours, watch the telly and pay taxes - if you are not retired and do not do ALL of these things then you don't have a normal daily life and you probably benefit from a lot of the things that seem to be designed to drag the rest of us down.

The idea of this page has been brought about simply by the need to vent our frustrations at things that go on in the World (yeap - it's not just Portugal) which appear to be simply designed to make life more difficult and trying for Mr Average but are sold to the rest of us as being necessary for the good of man/woman-kind generally by elected officials trying to maintain their positions.

** Very important note **
Please note that any reference to man or woman or he or she anywhere in this web-page may be construed by the reader to apply to either member of the opposite sex as preferred unless the context would bring offence to a member of that sexual group.
Nothing in this web-page should be interpeted as having any sexist, racial or any other connotations as it is simply a light hearted attempt to understand what goes on around us and allow us to air our grievances.
Nothing on this page is to be interpreted as anything unpleasant, tasteless or offensive. Any mentions of people, companies, organisations, groups or political parties are to be glossed over as we intend no specific reference to any of these and neither do we intend our ramblings to be any hint of approval or otherwise of any of these.

It make us wonder what sort of World we are bringing our children into. Would we want to inflict this on anyone - in fact we probably risk being done for Child Cruelty just by following the act of procreation.

It is expected that the act of simply documenting the issue will have a beneficial psychological effect on the author who, whilst he knows he can achieve nothing to change the facts, can actually feel that at least he has brought it to the attention of those charged with controlling the World and that they will be able to see the negative impact they are having on the daily life of those of the population who are in a lucky enough position to actually have something which can be screwed up or taken away.

In an attempt to make this page more interesting input is solicited from anyone who is getting near to breaking point with some ridiculous situation that is really not necessary, makes matters worse, costs money and especially just lines the pockets of those who least need any help such as Lawyers, Surveyors, Architects etc etc (in fact probably any of the so called "Learned Professions").

It is likely that the majority of the entries will be associated in some way with European legislation which gives the impression that, because there is so much, each one is initially conceived by a work experience employee during their first  training excercise and then somehow gets into the normal legislation system rather than just being marked as an examination paper. This is then bounced around the various member states who all want their own exceptions made and then it bounces further around as the various bodies inflict their political will on the content and try to use the various rules and regulations as bargaining chips to get their own changes to other draft legislation accepted by other countries. It is very doubtful whether the impact of the legislation on Mr Average is actually taken into account during these processes and, at the end of the day (or years), it is questionable whether much of the resulting legislation will really improve our quality of life.
A Reminder of The Position of the Small Business Owner
Remember that in this era of the minimum wage the small business owner is seriously at risk of legal action from himself for not paying himself what he is due, not giving himself the time off that he should and generally not being in a position to look after himself in the way that an employed person legally expects from their employer. There are no redundancy packages, paid holidays, paid time off sick, subsidised meals, employee pension plans, maternity or paternity leave etc etc etc. - Just good old hard work.
Any attempt to help alleviate the hard work and help reduce the unemployment figures will be met by paperwork, guaranteed this and that (for the employee) and even more hassle and work than was there before. Once you have your staff you will have them for life and they will have more rights than the rest of your family. You will have to spend more time with them than your kids, clothe them despite not having enough money left to provide for your kids and give them paid time off to go on holidays which you haven't had yourself for years. Its a mad mad world!
Obtaining a Licence from the local authority to sell goods in a shop
Our first story relates to a well known small business that has been trading in Portugal since 2004.

This business rents a small shop in the Algarve and sells various pet products and, crucially to this story, pet food.
Now, the shop has existed for many, many years and until 2004 was a bathroom and plumbing shop. There is a front sales area measuring around 30ft x 20ft, a rear storage area or about the same size and a toilet with sink and shower unit fitted. All very compact but eminently useable. This shop has an existing licence (or pre-dates licences) to sell general "hardware" - which, apparently covers dog leads and general pet paraphinalia as well..

In order to sell the pet food though it was necessary to apply for a licence - doesn't sound unreasonable because, after all, it is perishable and, as a foodstuff it must be stored correctly and pests must be kept at bay.

Now the business expected to make a simple application and maybe receive a visit from the local health inspector just to make sure that everything was OK. The lawyer was involved because he spoke the language, knew the local council, knew the regulations (not really!) and also knew a respected local architect who "does work for the Camara" (it might be as well here to point out that it appears many do and it might not necessarily be a good point if you are doing your own plans - it lets the architect take copies of the plans from the Câmara and not even visit the site) - he (The lawyer - certainly not the architect) was also a very reasonable price and a bit dool-ally (if you know a better spelling please let me know).
A verbal estimate of architects costs was provided by the lawyer of 150€ plus a bit for himself and the architect was instructed to continue with the outline drawing for the application.

Anyway - the next the business encountered was an architects bill for around 1000€ to be paid before the application was submitted. It appeared that there were actually several drawings needed for the application to comply with the regulations:-
(1) a site plan showing the nearest fire hydrant (it is right outside the door)
(2) a drawing to be mounted on the wall in the shop showing where the fire exit was (I for one wouldn't hang about looking for a plan showing the fire exit - I would just head for the door. In a multi-floor department store this might have a role but in an area of 600sq ft it's a joke)
(3) a plan showing the smoke detectors, emergency push button and the telephone point (OK he only had one smoke detector and the plan showed three - one in the front of the main shop area, one in the back of the shop area - about 15 feet from the first - and one in the store room - and the telephone was in the wrong place. Oh yes! - don't forget the emergency exit lights and signs above the front door.
(4) An interesting little plan showing a funny cubicle arrangement in the store room - the explanation for this was that a staff changing room and lockers had to be provided in accordance with the regulations. Remember that this is a small shop with a single staff member - the business owner - who is actually quite capable of changing at home. The space, of course, is currently filled with stock which really has nowhere else to go.
(5) The last drawing was mind blowing - the perfectly functional toilet, sink and shower room had to be converted to make the sink separate from the toilet (obviously so that germs could then be spread by the toilet door handle because the sink could not be reached until after the door had been opened from inside).  The conversion would require the toilet to be rotated 90 degrees, the shower removed and a partition wall with a door fitted - what was not mentioned on the plans was the need for the owners' arms to be removed prior to sitting on the toilet because there would not be room for his elbows otherwise.
Quick estimate of builders costs around 3000€ and provision of alarm system 1000€ - total costs here just to get a licence is over 5000€.

After storming around for weeks wondering what on earth is happening to the World the business owner was looking for either new premises with existing facilities or a less developed country. He may even retire.

Well after fuming for 6 months wondering how small businesses will ever be able to exist with all these rules and regulations and associated costs and investigating the various EC and Portuguese legislation regarding Health and Safety at work a minor miracle appeared. The EC legislation in the English version said changing rooms were needed if the staff wore "special clothes for work" whereas the Portuguese translation did not have quite the same emphasis. Hiring a different architect as a consultant, as he spoke the language, was not employed by the local Camara and was a very nice person, the business owner approached the local  Health Inspectors to review the requirement for the changing rooms and lockers - Lo and Behold - they came out of the meeting with the agreement that the business "only needed a lockable box" for an employee to lock away their valuables. Unfortunately the business still had to provide a urinal and the toilet had to be separated from the hand basin - still this had reduced the cost and impact on the storage area significantly. Needless to say that the only valuables any staff would take to work are their handbag and mobile phone - neither of which they would want to lock away but there we gothe business owner was prepared to accept this requirement.

When the "architect who worked for the Camara" who was handling the application was informed they didn't believe it - but, they are supposed to be professionals who know their business, so they should have known about it.

Around 12 months later there has been progress (of a sort). The Portuguese landlord agreed to do the work and get the licence and split the costs. Still expensive but he knows the way around. Trouble is (a) you cannot do any work yourself - it must be done by a registered builder who must have the proper insurance and (b) you MUST get a licence to do the work from the local Câmara. The landlord's brother arrived and hammered away for 2 weeks during which time there were no toilet facilities at all. When this was done the Landlord said OK - that's it - all done and the builders bill was paid. Needless to say the architects plans had been ignored and the toilet and urinal were in a completely different place! Watch this space - or at least a few paragraphs down - to see what transpires during the final inspection - will the business have to get the toilets remodelled again?

Straight up to the architects who had been originally instructed to sort out the licence to tell them the good news. First question they asked was - had the builder obtained the correct building licence? Well, it transpired that he hadn't - being of the old Portuguese school of "sod the laws and just get on with the work" he had done just that. So a quick flurry of activity followed where a copy of the builders insurance details (out of date) and "licence to build" (no he wasn't called James!) were obtained and then 3 weeks later the licence was received to allow the alterations to be done! Now there is 1 month to do the alterations. Luckily, somehow, the business  managed to avoid the requirement for a "Health & Safety" plan being drawn up - this was a likely requirement and was quoted at around 800€. Presumably this is needed to determine what action would have to be taken if the builder dropped a brick on his toe!

BUT things are never so easy - the architect has now informed the business that they need an "Acoustic Certificate" due to a new regulation now being imposed by several Câmaras in the area and presumably to permeate to the rest within a short time. This involves 2 tests - one is the level of sound generated by the shop and products (there are some very noisy dog leads and bags of pet foods) and the other is the acoustic insulation between the shop and adjoining properties (downstairs an empty shell on one side and a communal entrance hall with stairs leading up to the next floor on the other - OK there is a medical practice upstairs and a flat as well. This test costs 400€ plus tax according to "the architect who works for the Câmara" (or 650€ plus tax according to one of the only 2 registered acoustic testing businesses in the Algarve) and will take 2 days as the technicians have to visit the premises (and all the adjoining properties) and do their measurements over the 2 days! Whilst the business owner is writing this in the quiet peaceful surroundings of the Pet Supplies shop the guy out the back with a metalwork business is hammering, spraying and chiselling away without a care in the world - he has been there for years and knows nothing about acoustic certificates, urinals and "licences to build" etc! We do wonder what sort of acoustic impression he will have on the equipment that will be used in the shop to do the measurements.

At the moment the business owner's brain is telling him that there is something very seriously wrong somewhere - luckily  he does have the option of giving up his self-employed status and becoming a retiree or just closing down the business but the future generation does not have this luxury. He can also close down his shop and move from the confines of this Câmara and that is now very seriously being considered.

The impact of all these issues will be higher prices for the consumer leading to a move by these same consumers to large out of town shopping centres who can absorb the costs of these rules and regulations, followed by the eventual loss of all small businesses and increasing prices from the large multiples who now have no competition and a continuing collapse of society as we knew it just a generation ago!
Renewing a Licence with the local authority to run a Kennels
The owner, running a one-man kennels (no pun ...), based in the Algarve, is required to build a "hospital unit" all fitted out so that a vet can examine an animal if one is ever sick. In 15 years he has only had one emergency and he reached his own vet in 6 minutes.

The unit has to be built away from the normal kennels but all the available land is "agricultural" so permission must be granted by the Ministry of Agriculture for permission to change an area to be "rural". There must also be a separate Fossa and both Hot & Cold water supplies.

The planning application cannot even be submitted until the Dept. of Agriculture have given permission and this is expected to take at least 6 months. The planning application may then go through (maybe another 6-12 months?) and business can resume after the building work has been done.

As a temporary measure the owner arranged to have a Portacabin installed - but because the ceiling height was 2.85m this was not accepted as the minimum height must be 3m! (Presumably the kennel could take small giraffes as well)

The next issue is that a full time veterinary nurse must be employed and this, of course, then turns the one man business into a totally different ball game covered by Health and Safety requiring toilets, staff room etc and one member of staff must have been on a first aid course.

Now this established kennel cannot accept pets because they risk being fined.

The owner has come up with a solution - he is going to retire!
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Paws 4 Pets 2009