ATHENS – With an estimated 2 million stray dogs and cats in Greece's capital, a plan by the New Democracy government to reduce the numbers by forced sterilization is being opposed by veterinarians and breeders.
A proposed law is under public consultation and in a feature by Helena Smith, the British newspaper The Guardian outlined the criticism that includes animal rights activists and groups who feed and try to care for strays, some of the animals subjected to attacks by people who don't want them around.
It's up to local officials to deal with the problem but veterinarians especially are angered over the idea and went on strike.
“Studies in the US and Australia have proved that compulsory sterilization simply doesn’t work,” Manos Vorrisis, who runs a low-cost neutering clinic on the Aegean island of Syros told the paper.
Breeders said the law could bring about the end of pedigrees that have existed in Greece since ancient times.
“It’s not just compulsory sterilizations,” said Theodosis Papandreou, who heads the country’s only club representing amateur breeders. “The law also cuts back on the ability of owners to have litters, which ultimately would mean the end of pedigrees that are unique here.”
Greece is home to Europe’s oldest dog, the Cretan hound, and other canines who have been shown on wall paintings, statues and vases since ancient times and he said that can't be broken.
“We should be doing everything to preserve these rare breeds not make them extinct at a time when we want to enter dog shows like Crufts (held in the United Kingdom.) This new law will be a fatal mistake if it has such an effect on purebreds,” and lead to them becoming extinct, he added.
There has been a spate of animal cruelty cases against strays that led the government to also say it would increase penalties for such abuses and crimes, but at the same time it wants to cut down on the numbers of animals without owners.
Prime Minister, Kyriakos Mitsotakis, recently adopted a rescue puppy, Peanut, to push for that alternative, following the lead of Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades on the island there.
“It is time for Greece to go forward with courageous steps for the protection of our little friends,” Mitsotakis tweeted alongside a video about the bill. “Animal protection is a matter of civilization,” he said, noting that the legislation also sought to protect animals from abuse by urging adoption.
It's a question of ingrained culture too. “Men in this country are especially opposed because they equate sterilization with denuding animals of their manhood,” Efi Tsekmesoglou at the Chania branch of the Association of Animal Protection in Crete told the paper.
“Every day we find boxes and bags of kittens and puppies in rubbish bins, with most dumped by hunters and shepherds. Of course, there should be compulsory neutering,” she also argued.