While promoting itself as an animal-friendly country, Greece has a terrible record for animal cruelty with fears it could get worse after the ruling Radical Left SYRIZA recommended reduced penalties for abuse, only to withdraw them but promise they’ll be imposed at some point regardless of criticism.
A rash of news stories depicting people harpooning a cat, two soldiers throwing a dog off a cliff while laughing and filming the incident were examples of a more widespread problem, animal rights groups told the Turkish Anadolu News Agency.
Animal welfare societies and volunteer groups said it’s not unusual to find newborn puppies or kittens thrown into the garbage alive or drowned, especially in the countryside but despite that the Agriculture Ministry wants leniency for animal abusers.
It proposed punishing people who care for strays, fining vets for helping animals lacking an identifying microchip, and slapping pet owners with new fees and taxes, upsetting animal rights activists.
Newly-elected Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said he wants tougher animal protection laws in his country and said protecting them was “part of our belief, our humanity,” despite an atrocious record for human rights.
In Greece, “The phenomenon of animal abuse is very common. There are laws against abuse and prison terms as well as fines, but they are rarely applied,” said Teresa Exarchou, head of the Animal Welfare Committee of the Municipality of Kifisia, a north Athenian suburb.
“Despite the publicity surrounding some of the recent incidents and the tightening of arrest procedures, the police still haven’t done their part seriously by giving the attention needed,” she added.
“Greece is a country where only in recent years has animal welfare begun to grow in the public consciousness. Although there are a number of animal welfare groups and volunteers, everything starts with the right education in school and at home,” she explained.
Police reports showed there were 1,900 animal abuse complaints from January-September 2017, the last figures available, compared to 1,307 for the whole of 2015 and just 809 in 2004. Of those 1,900 complaints, 938 led to a criminal investigation, and 157 suspects were arrested.
“The problem is still deeply rooted, and it will take time and much suffering for the animals and those who are defending their rights to change the situation,” Themis Dimitrakopoulos, a member of Greece’s ruling Syriza party dealing with animal rights, told Anadolu.
Kirsty Kinloch, a British expatriate teacher and animal volunteer said that, “It’s a sad realization that Greece, a civilized and friendly country, is also home to some of the worst incidents of cruelty towards animals.”