Following horrific incidents, Greeks are now harassing animal cruelty

Greece had a lousy reputation for a long time when it comes to animal rights, but that is changing. In November, a law was passed in which the abuse and killing of animals became a serious crime. Perpetrators can be sentenced to 10 years in prison, fines can be up to tens of thousands of euros. However, according to experts, even more needs to be done.

โ€œ This is a big step forward,โ€ says Sofia Tzoniki, an animal rights advocate for many years and active in various organisations. โ€œIt means that the police are given the means to tackle the perpetrators hard.โ€

Police Chief Nikos Chrysakis in Crete, who has been involved in animal welfare for many years, calls the new legislation one of the strictest in the European Union. โ€œA crime such as poison, hanging or shooting an animal is now treated as the murder of a human being,โ€ he says. A detective team is questioning witnesses and doing forensics. In his district of Herakleion, the first case under the new legislation is under development.

Horrific assaults

Greece is not always positive in the news when it comes to animal welfare. Think of the treatment of donkeys on Santorini, the many cat colonies on the streets, and the dogs on the chain. But in recent years, a change has been noticeable. Citizens are increasingly reporting neglect or ill-treatment of animals. For example, between January and September there were already as many declarations as in the whole of 2018.

The new legislation was introduced speeded up after some horrific ill-treatment of dogs in Crete and Athens. Photos and videos of witnesses were shared through social media and caused great anger.

Renewed dog shelter

โ€œ There is a change, people care more and more about animals. And social media help,โ€ says Serafina Avramidou. As an Athenian city councillor, she is responsible for animal welfare. Avramidou is working on the renovation of the municipal dog shelter. Large clean cages, with at most 2 to 3 dogs and a large outdoor area with newly planted trees.

Through a new website, dogs and cats, which have separate care, are offered for adoption. The Athens Animal Welfare Department was formerly the waste well for transferred officials and virtually failed to function. With the arrival of the new mayor almost a year ago, that‘s changed.

โ€œ I’ve hired a new team. I wanted to make sure that I employ motivated and animal-friendly employees,โ€ says Avramidou.

The dog shelter is almost finished. Fifty dogs have been adopted this year. The next goal is a municipal veterinary clinic.

So now there are fewer stray dogs in the city, but the huge number of street cats remains a problem. Many animal organizations and volunteers are engaged in feeding, catching and sterilizing the cats and have adoption programs. Like the organization Nine Lives that helps cats in the Acropolis and in many other places in the center.

โ€œ It makes no sense to give food without sterilizing the cats,โ€ says Sonia Soldatou of Nine Lives. โ€œYou‘ll never have enough food.โ€

Microchipping is mandatory in Greece, sterilization is not. But that too is coming, in a new law for pets. Animal organisations have proposed that lessons on animal welfare in schools and on training for police officers should also be included in the law.

Police Handbook

Police Chief Nikos Chrysakis is a supporter of this. Cops have been better informed about animal welfare in recent years and trained by colleagues from abroad, but it is not yet a regular part at the police school.

A handbook that Chrysakis has been working on for four years has been in every police station in Greece since last year. โ€œIt’s a practical guide on all aspects of animal welfare, and how an agent can tackle animal abuse.โ€

More declarations

Research shows, says Chrysakis, that there is a strong connection between animal abuse and domestic violence. โ€œIn practice, we see that if there is a neglected or abused animal in a family, there may be more to it. Violence against children, women or the elderly.โ€

The increase in the number of reports from citizens on animal cruelty makes the police chief optimistic. โ€œIt indicates that society no longer accepts violence against animals, whether street or pets. We have a duty to deal with that.โ€