Letter to Mr S Efstathopoulos,
Secretary General - Tourism for Greece

July 2008
Dear Mr Efstathopoulos

It has come to my attention that a standard reply letter has been prepared and is sent to those who write to the Greek Tourist Organisation, about animal neglect or abuse they have seen while on holiday in Greece. Unfortunately this reply is causing as much, if not more, concern among tourists as the original episode that prompted them to write to you in the first place. Tourists who take the time and effort to write about animal welfare issues in Greece are looking for assistance and a solution, not a standard reply, and they are now contacting Greek Animal Rescue (GAR) UK, to help with these same problems.

I would like to address a few points raised in your letter to tourists, you write:

*** Dear ................. Following your email of June 6, 2008, we would like to inform you that there is already a legal framework in Greece aiming to

the elimination of incidences of animal abuse. Laws 1197/1981 and 3170/2003 comprise regulations both for companion animal welfare and for the protection of (stray) animals and provide for penalties in case of infringement. In addition, our country has ratified the European Convention for the protection of pet animals of 1987 by law 2017/1992.

All of the above is correct, in theory but, with all due respect, the laws are not being implemented. For your information, I founded GAR to help animals in Greece following a very distressing holiday in 1987. I visit Greece on a regular basis (to visit some of those we support) and I am only too familiar with what is happening 'on the ground'.

*** According to law 3170/2003, the Ministry of Rural Development and Food is responsible for the protection of animals in our country. Local Authorities are in charge of the management of the state of stray animals within the scope of their competence. The measures taken include identification and registration of stray animals, veterinary examination, vaccination and sterilisation as well as veterinary attention and care of ill or injured animals. In addition, the electronic identification of owned animals and the control of their reproduction activity is obligatory. The obligations of pet owners include, inter alia, the welfare of their animals, their annual medical exams etc. The owners who do not comply with the Law are punished with fines, or, depending on the offence, with six months imprisonment.

I am also very familiar with law 3170/2003 and again, while it looks good on paper, in reality it is not being implemented. Only 28 out of 400 plus Municipalities in Greece run sterilisation programmes for stray dogs. There is no official body or Municipality which regulates or implements the obligatory identification and microchipping of either stray or owned dogs and it is estimated that fewer than 5% of owned dogs are microchipped (and none of the stray dogs). This is a great pity, as this simple measure would ensure that many fewer dogs would be abandoned on Greek streets. If it were accompanied by campaigns to encourage the sterilisation of owned animals then the number of animals, especially puppies, abandoned on the streets would be drastically reduced.

Even a simple measure linking hunting licences to compulsory registration and microchipping of hunting dogs would go a long way to reducing the stray population. There are approximately 270,000 registered hunters in Greece and probably almost as many who are not registered. Many hunters have up to 10 dogs and those dogs who prove unsuitable for hunting or who are elderly, are regularly abandoned on the streets.

You say that: “...dog owners who don't comply with the Law are punished with fines" I would like to learn of even one instance of a dog owner being punished for not having his dog microchipped. It simply does not happen. However, I could give you hundreds of examples and photographic evidence of 'owned' dogs that have been abandoned including puppies and kittens. Animals that are simply thrown into rubbish bins or any other convenient receptacle, not to mention the tens of thousands of stray and owned dogs and cats (and the non intended victims like birds and other wildlife) that are poisoned annually.

*** As regards the promotion of ethical behaviour, the Hellenic Ministry of Rural Development and Food, in cooperation with official animal welfare associations, coordinates the education of citizens on the issue, through the organisation of seminars for pet owners, trainers or traders. The above activities are financed by the Hellenic Ministry of Economy and Finance.

Here, unfortunately, the situation is even more tragic.The Ministry of Rural Development and Food has no contact with animal welfare organisations in Greece. I can refer you to the two largest animal welfare federations in Greece (Coalition in Defence of Animals in Greece and the Panhellenic Animal Welfare Federation should you wish to confirm this). There are no 'seminars for pet owners, trainers and traders’ and every week hundreds of new animals are imported into Greek pet shops, having been raised in appalling conditions in Hungarian, Romanian and Bulgarian puppy farms.

*** You should know, however, that in order to initiate legal proceedings against offenders or proceed to recommendations towards the Local Authorities and the citizens of the local society regarding their obligations towards companion animals as well as the penalties incurred by non-compliance with the relative provisions, you need to produce detailed information concerning the exact place and time of the incident so that the competent Veterinary Authorities can take the matter in hand.

In my experience, incidents of cruelty and neglect are simply ignored by the police or to whoever they are reported to. I have experienced this many times personally and tourists report similar experiences when they try to find somebody in authority to help them with such matters. The most common response is that they are laughed at and in many cases they are simply told ‘this is how we do things here’. It is enough evidence that they write to you.

Tourists also complain to us about the general living conditions for animals - undernourished dogs kept chained 24 hours a day, donkeys and cows hobbled and tethered in open fields with no shade or water. I can provide you with photographic evidence of all I write about. Need I tell you about the plight of the donkeys on Santorini, about which the UK national newspaper Daily Express ran a 10 day long campaign, during which time their reporter was threatened by the owners of donkeys.

***Realizing the importance of the issue, the Ministry of Tourism plans to highlight to the Ministry of Economy and Finance the need to increase financing for the protection of animals. We assure you that we go to great lengths in order to minimize unacceptable phenomena such as those you have been describing.

With all due respect, ill-treatment and neglect of animals in Greece is more than a 'phenomenon'. It is a daily fact of life. Again, I can send you numerous photos of abused and neglected animals and I have background information (date, place etc) on each of them. Surely you have heard about 9 dogs found hanged on one tree in the tourist resort of Kardamena, Kos, in March 2008, or the recent poisoning of at least 12 dogs and a number of cats in Chania, Crete.

*** Greek citizens as well as the country’s Authorities expressly condemn the ill-treatment of animals. However, isolated incidents of animal abuse should not call into question the continuous effort of our country to achieve a fully satisfactory level of animal protection and welfare.

Forgive me, but incidents of animal abuse are most certainly not 'isolated cases'. It may also interest you to know that at least 80% of animal welfare/rescue work in Greece is funded by 'foreign' organisations, such as ours (Greek Animal Rescue), Graeske Hunde in Denmark, several German societies which help animals from Corfu in the north to Crete in the south. Our organisation alone spends on average 150,000€ per year on animal welfare / rescue work in Greece, subsidising neutering etc.

I apologise for the length of my letter, Mr Efstathopoulos, but I had to comment on what I consider an inaccurate description of the state of animal welfare and of how Greek laws designed to protect animals are not being implemented. The reality is tragic and the sooner we acknowledge this, then the sooner we can all work together to achieve real changes and improve the lives of not only companion animals but all animals in Greece.

Our organisation, Greek Animal Rescue, and our colleagues in other European countries are willing to help as much as possible and would welcome co-operation with the Ministry of Tourism. We have considerable experience in helping tourists with the problems they encounter with animals. We also have contacts all over Greece both among animal welfare workers and veterinary surgeons. In addition, I suggest you contact and work with the two major Animal welfare Federations who are also extremely willing to assist you.

email: info@pfo.gr
email: info@argosgr.org

In turn, we would welcome your advice on clear simple procedures that tourists can follow, should they witness acts of animal cruelty or abandonment – perhaps a form they can complete and submit to the relevant authority, but this authority must be accessible in all of Greece and there must be a follow-up of the complaints, which should be reported back to the complaint.

I know from many of our members that they now avoid Greece as a holiday destination because they cannot face the cruelty and disregard for animals they witness or the huge number of abandoned animals who wander the streets.

There are simple measures such as sterilisation of owned animals and microchipping that would change the situation to a large degree. It is a great pity that a beautiful country and a wonderful holiday destination is marred by lack of interest in animal welfare, but I am sure it is possible to change this situation and we offer you all our support in any way you require it.

cc: Mr A. Spiliotopoulos
Mr K. Kilkidis
Mr A. Oikonomou

I look forward to your response.
Yours sincerely,

Vesna Jones (Founder/President)

P.S. I include below just a few examples of letters we receive from tourists (who have returned from their 'holidays') almost on a daily basis .......


To: info@greekanimalrescue.com
Sent: Sunday, June 22, 2008 3:43 PM
Subject: Help for a kitten in Rhodes - 22/06/08

Dear GAR

I really don't know whether you will be able to help or even if you have any contacts in Rhodes, but I have been onto your website and read the many examples of poor treatment of animals and I cannot get out of my head the experience I have had in regard to a lone kitten.

I have just got back from Rhodes today, returning to Manchester UK. A couple of nights ago I found a kitten (it's seems difficult to guess its age as the cats there seem so skinny, but I'm guessing approx. 8 weeks old). It's a 10 minute walk to the right exit onto the main road from Kassandra Studios & Apartments just off main road Ixia Avenue (between Ixia & Trianda) almost opposite a video/dvd rental shop. I managed to feed and provide water for it, but it seems to have little energy at all and is on its own. It's back legs seem weakened. I'm guessing it's waiting for its mother who hasn't re-appeared. It sits behind a fence looking out to the main road and just stays there all the time. I managed to get it out once and put it into someone's nearby garden where a couple of other cats appeared to be being looked after, in the hope that it may get adopted. However, to my dismay, when I went back the following day, it had returned to the same spot on its own. It's obviously dehydrating and hungry and seems unable to fend for itself. As our coach to the airport drove passed the area in the early hours of this morning, it was still in the same position and I can't get it out of my head.

I am very much an animal lover, having two cats and a dog of my own, but didn't know what more I could do to help her. It has left me saddened and restless that I am not there to help her more. I really don't know whether you could help with this at all, but if you could offer any advice, I would be grateful. I look forward to hearing from you.

Alison


To: info@greekanimalrescue.com
Sent: Tuesday, June 10, 2008 2:28 PM
Subject: Adopting a dog from Corfu

I have been given your email address by *NAME*, who I understand you helped get one of her dogs from Corfu to the UK. I was in Corfu last week and befriended a dog which was running around the hotel. I took the dog to the local vet and had her first set of inoculations done, chipped, wormed, frontlined, and her passport done. She is now with Dawn and Geoff *SURNAME*, undergoing her quarantine period.

I am hoping to get her to the UK as soon as the second lot of blood tests have been done, probably around January time and I wondered if you could give me any advice on the best way to get her home.

I have looked on numerous sites on the internet about flying her home and it’s just a minefield! Any advice or help (not financial of course!) would be greatly appreciated.

kind regards, Terri


To: info@greekanimalrescue.com
Sent: Tuesday, July 01, 2008 10:03 AM
Subject: Re: Dogs

Dear GAR

Can you help? I am on holiday in Agia Galini, Crete. There are 2 dogs here, very thin and clearly stray.

I have been feeding them for 3 days and have given them a worming tablet each. I have contacted the Rethymnon animal shelter, 3 other people and 4 other organizations who look after dogs and they have all told me they cannot help them? I am able to offer financial support to sponsor these dogs. We leave on Sunday.

Can you help? I have asked so many people now and am coming up with no-one who is interested in helping. I do realize that these are just 2 of many animals needing help, but the thought of them starving is very upsetting to me.

Regards, Donna


To: info@greekanimalrescue.com
Sent: Monday, June 02, 2008 1:08 PM
Subject: Neglected Donkey in Scala, Kefalonia, Greece

Dear Sir or Madam,

My friends and I have just returned from a holiday in Scala, Kefalonia.

Do you have any contacts in Kefalonia? We came across a neglected donkey badly in need of a vet to look at its right front foot/hoof which was very twisted.

We found out that the donkey belonged to an old lady who lived in a cottage at the end of the street where our hotel was located. The donkey had plenty to graze on but did seem to lack water and our landlady told us that quite often the guests will give water to the Donkey which is not routine enough.

I will be delighted to give you more in-depth information if you have a contact who would be able to take up this case and inspect the donkey.

Regards
A Lamberton


Updated: 28th July 2008

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