Animal Welfare

I hope that what I write on this page, will give you an idea of what the reality of animal welfare is all about, and also life as an animal rescuer.  Together with my husband, we bought a village house and moved to Greece in 2005 with view of starting a new life in the Mediterranean.  Never once did we envisage being involved with animal welfare or the amount of work it involved.  But as animal lovers, it just happened. 

We love the Greek strays, mainly cats, but also love their bigger furry friends, the doggies.  Over the years, we have witnessed a great deal of cruelty and indifference towards many of their kind.  We also get to see the darker side of people, which really is annoying and frustrating.  Will it ever end?  A question that really doesn't have an answer, but we cannot stop doing what we do.  Truly, hand on heart, we hope that our actions are a step closer to making a huge difference to the stray population in our area.  We have to start somewhere.  

Caring and being passionate about animal welfare could take up all of our time, if we let it.  But we try and find a balance, which is not easy.  We work on our own and are not part of any group or charity, as we know we can acheive much more in helping the strays this way.  It has been a journey of sadness and sorrow, and a nightmare that is continually on-going.  The strays are as common as the cruelty is towards them.  What people see won't always be pleasant, but sadly that is the reality.  Many say they are animal lovers, but sadly cannot bear to see the pain and suffering. Therefore they turn away, which I view as ignoring the situation.  There have been some happy times, but most of the time, it is the frustration with the way locals and communities treat their animals.  More importantly, their ideas are still a throw back to the Middle Ages.  

Understandably, there is a huge population of strays, cruelty and neglect.  Lack of enforcement officers means everything is left up to the police to enforce the animal welfare laws.  However, the government and police tend to be indifferent to the animal welfare problem. In our area, there are no police officers, and if there were any, they would not be professionally trained to such situations.  People accept the high level of cruelty towards animals, because it has always been this way, equally many are not aware of the legislation or their rights regarding these matters.  

Greece is within the EU and has a definite clear set of animal legislations.  Law 4039/2012 applies to pets and strays.  This law should guarantee punishable sentences with 6 months imprisonment or a fine of between 300 to 30,000 Euros, or both. However, hardly any of the Greeks know of this law and these sentences are rarely enforced.  As a result, animal cruelty and neglect is a common occurance. Acts of cruelty include dog hangings, animal poisoning on a wide scale, especially approaching the peak festival and summer periods, dog shooting, 'hit-and-run' where the poor helpless stray is left to die, dog beatings, dogs abused horrendously, puppies and kittens thrown into the sea or just binned and left to die, dogs abandoned in the mountains, many waiting by the roadside waiting for the owners to return, which does not happen.  The list is endless.  

We never try to re-home any stray within Greece.  We know that not all Greek people are crimimals, as many do like animals and some will give these helpless souls a good life, but they are very few and far between.  Puppies or kittens might be wanted by children, but not as a loving companion or pet.  Once they realize the animal is more than just a toy, it is usually abandoned. Abandoned in desolate mountain areas where there is no chance of survival at all.  Hardly any people in Greece take the responsibility to spay or neuter their pets.  Lack of these important actions just create more unwanted litters.  These litters are then binned, killed as soon as they are born, or they wait for the puppies to be weaned, then they are dumped to fend for themselves. 

Then there are the barrel dogs, which are deemed as 'working' dogs. These animals live to serve as "scarecrows" or "doorbells" to farmers and landowners, they live a lonely tormented life, as the owners do not understand or care about the fact that these animals get thirsty and hungry and need some human contact and love.  Sights like these are witnessed all over Greece and it is a practice that is illegal.  These dogs are usually tied to a tree, fence or farm equipment, on a chain that is too short, if they are lucky they have a metal barrel tipped on its side as shelter.  Sadly, these conditions are perfectly normal for the Greek people, who simply accept these actions as part of everyday life. The dogs in these conditions lead a terribly tragic sad and lonely life, with hardly any food, water or vetenary care.  They usually die of starvation, heat stroke or disease and rarely reach the age of two.  Under the Act, this is an illegal practice, but the Police and Government in Greece just don't care. 

"Until one has loved an animal, a part of one's soul remains unawakened" ~ Anatole France 

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