Poisoning animals is a crime in Greece. Yet poisoning is widespread throughout the country, and large numbers of animals die an agonising death every year as a result of it. Why? And what can be done about it? The issue is a complex one…
Poisonings appear to be carried out for a variety of reasons and, with a low prosecution and conviction rate, it is hard to be certain of who the perpetrators are and what motivates them. Although welfare organisations document incidences in their area, there are no national statistics. Personal disputes between neighbours may play a part, but it would appear from the available (mostly anecdotal) evidence that in some areas local people regard strays as a nuisance.
The failure of many local authorities to take their legal responsibilities seriously and provide funding to deal with packs of stray dogs certainly plays a role. Stockmen in rural areas occasionally claim that their herds have been attacked by dogs, and this too is sometimes used as an excuse for the barbaric practice of poisoning. Local welfare groups may care for neighbourhood animals through the Winter only to have their hearts broken when, in early Summer, businesses reopen and all the healthy, neutered animals are found poisoned.
It is true that groups of stray or neighbourhood animals can sometimes cause problems in towns and villages. They may rip open rubbish bags and scatter the contents, causing public health risks; they may behave aggressively towards both people and animals; they may be noisy at night. Usually there is a good reason for such behaviour, and none of it justifies ending an animal’s life in a way that causes terrible suffering.
In spite of the pressure welfare groups and caring individuals now often put on them, the police cannot bring prosecutions without evidence. Poisoning is a practice that the perpetrators take care to carry out covertly and without the presence of witnesses, so it is difficult to bring a successful prosecution. Local people may have their suspicions… there may even be hearsay evidence of threats made, but this is not enough. In small communities neighbours will find themselves having to give evidence against neighbours, and this they are reluctant to do.
Nevertheless GAWF/Animal Action continues to press for the proper investigation of incidents of poisoning and for prosecutions to be brought whenever possible.
In Greece, local authorities are legally responsible for the stray dogs in their area. A handful are very well organised and take their role seriously but most still give the issue a low priority and devote no funds or manpower to tackling it, leaving it to the local welfare group… if there is one.
Attitudes to neutering in Greece, particularly in rural areas, can differ from those in the UK. The expense of neutering plays a part but a surprising proportion of people finds the idea “unnatural” and feels that an animal should be free to fulfil its natural desire to find a mate and reproduce. The thinking seems to stop there. The resulting litter of kittens or puppies is often dumped in the garbage or simply abandoned. GAWF/Animal Action is continuing to work to change such attitudes.
We believe there is no simple answer to this complex web of problems so it we are tackling each contributing factor on a variety of fronts:
• We distribute our own anti-poisoning literature nationwide (click here to see our Greek antipoisoning leaflet)
• When we get a report of a specific poisoning incident we contact local authorities and press them to investigate and bring the guilty to justice.
• We run Catch, Neuter & Release (CNR) programmes to help control stray numbers, and support local welfare groups to do the same.
• We run Responsible Pet Ownership campaigns to encourage people to do the right thing; to microchip and neuter, never to abandon their pets, and to prevent them from causing a nuisance in the neighbourhood.
How you can help:
• Distribute GAWF/Animal Action anti-poison campaign material and other literature that we produce. Campaign materials are available free of charge. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org
• Report the poisoners: If you know that someone has poisoned animals or is threatening or planning to do so, report them to the police.
• Don't be part of the problem – be a responsible pet owner – that means ensuring that your pet does not become a nuisance and annoy your neighbours. Never abandon your pet.
• Help the victims: If you find an animal that has been poisoned call a vet (If there is to be a successful prosecution a vet must perform an autopsy and determine the cause of death). Follow the tips on the leaflet.
• Take photographs for evidence.
• Contact the media: Inform the media immediately if there are mass poisonings in your area.
• Write to the local Mayor and MP: Ask for action on poisoning and enforcement of the law.
• If you were in Greece on holiday, copy your letter to the Ministries of Tourism and Agriculture.
• Take care not to make allegations you cannot substantiate – you could end up defending a defamation/libel action yourself!
Remember: People who poison animals are criminals – don't let them get away with it.