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A Systematic Solution to Greece's Stray Dog Problem

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Stray dog in Trikala. (Photo by Eurokinissi/ Thanassis Kalliaras)

AEGINA, Greece - Two years after its launch in Aegina, the first municipal universal RFID microchipping program for owned dogs in Greece, reached a key milestone: 50% of owned dogs in Aegina are now microchipped!

Nearly 1,000 owned dogs, have come out of anonymity and have what is effectively a lifelong implanted serial number!

This was achieved through the pioneering program launched in early 2018 by Zero Stray Pawject, Inc. in the Municipality of Aegina.

It is the first time in Greece that a systematic approach has been deployed that aims at the root cause of the problem of stray dogs and not simply dealing with the symptom, i.e., the dogs already on the street.

Zero Stray Pawject's goal is to eradicate stray dogs in Aegina so that:

Aegina becomes the first community in Greece without stray dogs.

Zero Stray Pawject's program becomes the best practice playbook that other municipalities can also apply for a Greece without strays.

This effort is supported by the Bodossaki Foundation in Athens and Battersea Bogs and Cats Home, one of the largest animal welfare organizations in the world.

The National Herald

What is the dirty truth behind strays?

Stray dogs do not grow on trees but are the result of dogs being abandoned by irresponsible owners. The "anonymity" of dogs is the enabling factor that allows their abandonment because they cannot be traced back to their original owner. An abandoned dog cannot tell anyone who abandoned it, it has no fingerprints, nor any uniquely identifying marks.

For this reason, Zero Stray Pawject focuses on the period before a dog potentially ends up on the street. The cornerstone of our approach to eradicate stray dogs is to give an "ID card" to every owned dog: to implant passive RFID microchips that have unique serial numbers and enter the owners' information on a database.

Although microchipping of pets is mandatory in Greece (Law 4039/2012), and a National Pet Registry exists at the Ministry of Agriculture, the law has not been enforced and only the most responsible owners (i.e., the least likely to abandon their pets) have so far micro-chipped their dogs.

In 2018, Zero Stray Pawject started its pioneering program with the Municipality of Aegina to promote microchipping of dogs and their registration not only in the National Pet Registry, but also in a new Municipal Dog Register that has augmented data for each dog and each owner (including behavioral and attitudinal).

Zero Stray Pawject, and the Municipality of Aegina, managed to reach the 1,000 dogs microchipped milestone by taking the following actions over the past 2 years:

1. Organized a bi-weekly municipal lottery which was designed and funded by Zero Stray Pawject. It awarded 200 euros to the owner of a randomly selected dog from the Municipal Dog Registry.

2. Subsidized the implantation of 400 microchips for lower- and middle-income dog owners.

3. Designed and produced 1,000 dog tags, each with the unique Municipal registration number.

4. Donated microchip scanners to the Hellenic Police and Coast Guard stations in Aegina, who have become the first police forces in Greece to perform random spot checks of dogs to ensure they have been microchipped.

The National Herald

Although microchipping can protect an adult dog from ending up on the street, a microchip is obviously not hereditary. For this reason, and since many abandoned dogs are puppies from unwanted litters, Zero Stray Pawject also subsidizes neutering of owned dogs as a means to reduce the number of puppies at risk of abandonment. Specifically:

For 2020, funding for 300 neuterings has already been raised.

The Municipal Dog Register allows for targeted campaigns at the owner and dog level, as it has:

Data on whether or not each dog is neutered

The reason why each owner avoids neutering (in case the dog is sterile)

Contact details of the owner to send SMS or email.

In the first 2 months of the program, 60 dogs have already been neutered.

Finally, since education is the 3rd pillar of the program, in 2019 Zero Stray Pawject launched a training program with specialized partners. It aimed at the schoolchildren in Aegina and was extremely well received.