Save The Voiceless

August 7, 2020
By Sophia Sembos

Greece has had a horrible stray dog and cat problem for as long as anyone can remember.  Anyone living in Greece or traveling there has witnessed it firsthand. Regardless if you are sympathetic to the problem or not, the issue is hard to ignore.  Walk down any street, in any municipality in Greece, rural or urban, and you will be met with strays; sick, injured, neglected, abused, discarded.  It has become so indoctrinated into everyday life, most residents don’t even notice it.  They are numb to it, and visitors can’t forget it, etched in their minds. For us living abroad, in places where strays are few and resources abound, we are horrified by the strays’ plight.  We want to help.  We cannot simply ignore a hungry puppy or kitten. We cannot ignore a sick or injured animal. Millions of strays in Greece rely on tourists for food, shelter and care during summer months. Many find homes when holidays come to an end and tourists simply can’t stand to leave these sweet souls behind to a fate worse than death.  When tourists have left, these lives rely on the philanthropic gestures of grassroot rescues and organizations. Yet, the Greek government has started a campaign that has stopped foreign adoptions and has made rescuers in Greece illegal.  People who have sacrificed everything to help where the government has fallen short are now being threatened as criminals, for feeding, sheltering and providing care for a Greek stray cat or dog. 

The reasons given by the government for such actions are comical and almost can’t be repeated with a straight face. The government refers to foreign adoptions as “illegal trade and animal trafficking,” and those who work hard at saving these lives and finding good homes as “smugglers.” They seek to taint the very people who are filling in where the government has fallen short and have failed miserably. They make unsubstantiated claims that Greek strays are sold to international laboratories for experiments; or are sent to European brothels for dubious reasons involving bestiality; or best yet that Greek strays are sent abroad to be turned into sausages! Can anyone imagine such ridiculous claims being used to prevent the rescue of a Greek stray? Maybe these claims are made because these government officials cannot fathom that people exist who actually LOVE animals and deeply care about their well-being. In their minds, there has to be some perverted reason for someone to have an interest in a stray. They should be embarrassed and ashamed for their motivation seems only to be a divisive tool used to defame those devoted to making a difference in the life of a stray. If the government’s motivation was sincere, these claims could easily be investigated and prevented for no rescuer wants to see any animal destined for these horrific outcomes.  In fact, rescuers go to great lengths to ensure that each and every home is a loving and safe environment. The government could work together with local organizations and charities to make a real difference in the stray population of Greece and become a beacon for all the world to emulate.

Instead, Greece makes all strays the property of the municipality in which they reside. These municipalities have few resources and yet are responsible to feed, spay/neuter, shelter and provide care for all the strays within their boundaries. Most municipalities fall short and have failed in providing for the strays in any way. Those with municipal shelters are an abomination of suffering. Dogs are caged with little food and vet care; abandoned in unsanitary conditions where they are forced to sit in their own excrement.  They are left to fight amongst themselves where the strongest survive and the weakest perish. And often after resources run dry, they are set free to roam again. Cats are simply discarded as trash; allowed to breed exponentially, repeating an endless cycle of suffering. This is no solution for the strays of Greece. Greek strays deserve better.

I personally have been involved with rescuing the strays of Greece. I have seen firsthand the transformation of a Greek street dog or cat now living as a beloved pet in the US.  Every day I am grateful that these few souls made it out of their misery and living the life every animal deserves. In Greece, the odds of them living past their first birthday was nil. The fact that they are now four and five years old, living happy lives with families was like hitting the lottery. Their friends and siblings who were left behind have all perished. None survived. The horrific choices rescuers make as to which animal is rescued and which is left behind is difficult to fathom. Rescuers sacrifice so much to make a difference in the life of a stray. They work hard, give much and never receive a thanks. Instead, their efforts are blocked, and they are falsely accused of criminal acts.  

The international rescue community is asking the Greek government to start a dialogue with the rescue community to work together to implement effective change; they are asking the Ministry of Agriculture to remove obstacles that facilitate rescuers’ work; They are asking local authorities and municipalities to collaborate with local charities and rescues to help improve the quality of life for strays; they are asking Greek citizens to get involved and volunteer with local charities in making a difference for the life of strays in their community; and finally they are asking for all animal welfare organizations and charities to join the effort so that together a difference can be made.  Together we CAN make a difference!  For more information in either English or Greek, click on Save the Voiceless:  https://www.savethevoiceless.com/αλήθειες-και-ψέματα/open-letter-from-animal-welfare-organizations/?fbclid=IwAR2UpwJ86mwsET_tJhIh0rdQYJGTy4xHXa1lYgtkXwTuxwoC9oMDqkdREsE


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