The plight of strays

Our journey began in helping strays, after we had arrived to Greece, which was the start of our new life. Animal welfare certainly wasn't on our agenda. Our main objective was to start and find ways of working, to earn a living and enjoy the Mediterranean life. Little did we know at the time what we would become involved in. As most know, Greece has been described as one of the most beautiful countries within the Mediterranean. Hot sun, blue skies, idyllic beaches, historical sites and much more.  Sadly where animals are concerned, this is a far cry from reality. One can read through many newspapers about the horrors of animal welfare.  It disturbs tourists to the extent that they vow never to return.  We ourselves have travelled through Greece for many years and have witnessed many horrible sights, but equally we have always fed and watered any stray that crossed our path.

The difference is when you permanently live in Greece or any Mediterranean country.  As an animal lover, the sights witnessed are painful.  Tears well up in your eyes.  In some cases you are powerless to do anything.  You know the animal will die.  They are dumped in areas where there is absolutely no chance of any survival at all.  The mountains are a prefect dumping ground, but without food and water, the poor soldiers are doomed.  Dead dogs and puppies are left on the roads for days on end.  In towns and cities, dogs roam about searching for food and water, getting pathetically thinner and weaker and one cannot do anything to help.  Food is put down, but the poor souls are too scared of humans.  Therefore they run away.   

It is the same story with cats and pregnant animals.  The solution seems to be to "dump them" or "bin them".  We get rid of our rubbish in bins and then this rubbish is taken to the tips.  Over the years, we have rescued many new born animals, barely hours old from bins and some still with their unbilical cord attached.  A while back, we were made aware of some puppies being outside a religious place.  Upon investigation and within a very short period of time, these puppies had been binned!!!!  It was beyond belief.  Had we not seen a head peeping over the bin, then their chances of survival would have been non-existent.  It is a never ending story with walking past bins and hearing the plights of binned strays.  Kittens thrown into the sea, kittens left in the hot blazing sunshine.  It really is heartbreaking and one just cannot save all the animals.  We are knowledgable about animals, more with cats than dogs, but have had to learn pretty quickly over the years.  

Very few cats and dogs have responsible owners in Greece, and most have a very short and miserable life.  There are supposedly animal welfare laws, but sadly they are very rarely enforced.  As a result, there are thousands of stray, sick and injured animals with no access to things that we take for granted in perhaps other parts of the world.  Simple things like food and water, shelter and vaccinations against diseases.

During the tourist season many animals survive thanks to some tourists, who feel sad at their plight, and feed them scraps.  Around the tables in  tavernas, there are pleading eyes looking up and begging for food.  Some are lucky and do get a morsel, others might be shouted at, or even kicked.  Sadly when the tourists leave there is no food supply.  Therefore they die of starvation and many diseases.  Those that do survive are frequently poisoned, especially when important festivals are approaching.  But poisoning is just another normal way of life to so many Greeks, even though this is an illegal practice.

There are no sterilization programs, which would improve the situation greatly.  Sadly there seems to be little interest in the welfare of animals, neither from the authorities, nor from the Greek public.  This results in a constant flow of kittens and puppies to replace the dying adult population, and so the sad cycle starts again, year in, year out. 

The lack of vaccinations means that parvovirus and cat flu are very common, and parasite born diseases such as Leishmanisis and Ehrlrichia are prevalent, all being potentially lethal illnesses, especially in sick and starving animals.  Animals suffering with any of these conditions will rarely be offered any veterinary care, as very few people bother to help them. The results are truly shocking. Even dogs which have owners are not treated as family pets, as in most of Europe. There are thousands of dogs kept on short chains with no access to shelter.  The lucky ones do have food and water, but otherwise have a very miserable existence.  Being from England, it is difficult for me to understand why people would own a dog, just to leave it chained up, and how living animals can be treated with such indifference or cruelty.

"Kindness is giving others happiness.  Compassion is removing others bitterness.  Joy is freeing others from suffering" ~ Buddha 

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