Everything mentioned in this article was personally witnessed by Mum, during her recent tour of Greece.
Many animals live at the beck and call of adoring owners, who live to shower them in love and all things good, but not all animals live this way. Throughout the world, each country has its own struggle with stray and abandoned animals, and what to do with them. Something to keep in mind when traveling, as you may be exposed to animal neglect or abuse you hadn’t planned on, and may not be in the position to help. The last thing most people on holiday want to see are homeless or dying animals. Unfortunately, this goes with the territory in many areas of the world. Homeless and abused humans is also a problem, of course, but here our focus is on animals.
In Australia, where Mum lives, they have air conditioned “Pet Ambulances.” It is illegal to abandon an animal. Cruelty to animals is illegal. My own shelter, the Animal Welfare League of Queensland (@AWLQ) takes all their dogs once a week for hours of swimming and playing at the official “Dog Beach.” AWLQ believes it helps the animal’s mind and therefore helps the animal be more adoptable. On return to the shelter, each dog receives a hydro-bath and blow dry. Each dog also receives obedience training several times a week. Healthy mind, healthy pet. Not all countries think like this — or have these resources. Culture clash can sometimes be painful.
“Free” vs “Stray”
Mum recently visited Greece, where she was shocked at the hundreds of abandoned and homeless pets in the streets. The official term used to describe these abandoned pets is “free roaming” or just “free.” My translation of “free” is “stray.”
There are animal rescue groups in Greece, but you might not think so, based on the all the hungry, sick and injured strays you see everywhere you go. In Queensland, if you see a stray dog, you immediately contact any animal shelter, any form of animal control, any vet, police officer, etc. and usually the animal will be in the safety of a shelter within hours. Throughout the length and breadth of Greece, at every tourist destination, Mum was confronted by multiple starving and dying dogs and cats again and again. She constantly carried hamburgers and boxes of dried cat food, giving food to every starving animal she met. This was a daily event!
Worse than that were the severely injured cats who were somehow still alive, despite horrific wounds after being mauled by marauding gangs of starving dogs. Only once was Mum able to find treatment for one of these cats. It took well over an hour just to find one person who would give her a the phone number of a veterinarian. (Mum was going to pay for the vet expenses.)
In the main street of an exclusive shopping area in Athens, in one of the most expensive living areas in Europe, Mum stumbled across the dearest ginger tomcat imaginable. As she glanced to see if he also needed food, she was shocked to see his face. He smiled at her and jumped up for a pat, as if, in the most gentlemanly way possible, to ask for her help. He had a large piece of flesh bitten out of his hind leg, and his eye was damaged.Mum was horrified to see that his throat had been torn open. He had been seized by a large dog and shaken violently by the throat. Somehow he escaped and had lived. The wounds were approximately a week old. Again, no one would assist Mum in finding a veterinarian — not the police, not the shop people, not the locals in the streets. The very last person she asked told her to bring the cat to her fancy shop.
Help At Last
To the cat’s amazing credit, he sat on Mum’s knee for 45 minutes. With fifteen minutes to go, the friend of the shopkeeper rang to let Mum know she had left work and was sending a taxi for them to travel to the vet, as it was over two miles away! Next thing, Mr. Ginger Tomcat and Mum, and the friend, Marilena, were traveling through the roads of Athens in a taxi cab together. The vet, Dr. Vasiliki Sauuaztzi, was so moved that someone cared to do this for a street animal, she was almost in tears, and treated him completely free of charge!
All Dressed Up And Nowhere To Go
Mr. Tomcat had his wounds on his leg and throat irrigated and dressed, his eye treated and a ten-day antibiotic injection as well as a complete physical. Mr Tomcat knew we were helping him. Not once did he fight or scratch or bite. He purred except for a few little screams when it really hurt a lot. Mum worked very hard to get the vet to keep him but she already had five cats. She came so close to keeping him. When Mr. Tomcat’s vet visit was finished, Dr. Sauuaztzi gave Mum an open mesh cat cage to carry him the two miles back to “his street.” Marilena walked with Mum so she wouldn’t get lost. Mum carried Mr. Tomcat and together she and Marilena returned him to the recessed storefront that he called "home."What Mum didn’t know is that the happy ending with Mr. Tomcat would have to serve her as a reminder of a successful rescue, because from that day on, she was faced with similar and often worse situations, on a daily basis. This success was soon followed by many tears as the tour progressed. Veterinarians and shelter workers in Greece have a tough time of it, dealing not only with limited funds and resources, but also a culture that generally considers homeless animals a non-issue.
New York based WAG (Welfare for Animals Global) has called for a boycott of Greek tourism to protest vicious animal brutality, determining that with years of protests and petitions calling for the Greek government to enforce animal cruelty laws ignored, hitting Greece in the pocketbook is the only way to force the government to address the issue.
The Anipal Times is aware that every country has its own animal welfare issues and that there are many animal lovers and animal organizations in Greece valiantly working to improve conditions and educate the public to be more empathetic to animals. This is, however, a high-profile issue, as can be evidenced by any Internet search for ‘Greece Animal Abuse’ or ‘Greece Animal Petition.’
We welcome all comments regarding this issue.
Photographs were all taken by Pepi’s mom, except the last one, taken by Marilena Vandorou, and are all used with permission.