Greece’s stray dogs – Loved and cared for by many

Greece’s residents and government help street animals live better on the streets. Strays might not know what a comfortable dog bed feels like, they might never experience a bath, but they do know what it feels like to be loved by someone.

Puppies playing on the streets of Santorini, Greece.

This article illustrates recent personal experiences our author encountered while visiting Greece.

We’ve heard the stories of community dogs – stray animals that don’t belong to anyone in particular but somehow are taken care of by many people within a community. In the United States it is not so common to see docile, well-fed dogs, roaming the streets freely. Many American homeless animals are in appalling health conditions and when authorities are called to step in, it is usually done to get the dogs off the streets. Yet, if you travel abroad you will encounter many friendly animals living well and legally on the streets.

Greece has a large percentage of stray dogs that are taken care of not only by the locals but by the government as well. The Greek government has a public program where stray animals are tagged and offered veterinary services. The government pays for and administers vaccines to these community dogs, and whenever needed, they offer medical attention to any injured street animal. Unfortunately, the program can’t afford to spay and neuter the strays, therefore these animal continue to breed on their own.

For tourists, the street dogs are an unexpected surprise. At first, tourists might worry that these dogs are homeless, sick, hungry and abandoned, but on a closer look, visitors realize that these street animals have a far better life than many unwanted American house pets.

Street dog in Santorini, Greece.

“Here in Greece our homes are not large enough for all of us to house animals,” said Bill McMillian, who resides in Athens, Greece. “That’s why we look after the street dogs. We feed them, pet them, and play with them. They are like our own pets, but they belong to everyone instead.”

Greece’s street dogs might not know what a comfortable dog bed feels like, they might never experience a bath, but they do know what it feels like to be loved by someone.

Local animal lovers understand the street life might not be an ideal one for all these animals, this is why the locals take it upon themselves to get to know the neighborhood dogs and ensure they get food and water on a daily base.

Letty the street dog and her guardian.
Athens, Greece.

“I feed Letty and her friends twice a day every day,” said Letty’s guardian. “I come looking for her in the morning and bring her a bowl of food and biscuits. I also know of this woman that lives outside Athens. She and her husband go around the city every day feeding the dogs. They buy food from the market, cook it, and drive around feeding those animals they see.”

On the rare occasion when a dog becomes violent towards a human, authorities are called to intervene.

“The government doesn’t destroy the dog right away,” said Letty’s guardian. “Some people that don’t like animals might falsely report that a dog is aggressive when this isn’t true. That’s why animal control comes out, collects the dog and holds it for about five days.”

According to Letty’s guardian, while animal control has the dog, the animal gets a temperament test. If the animal shows sign of aggressions they try to find a rescue group or person that is interested in working and rehabilitating the canine. On the rare case when the dog is too aggressive to be released back on the streets, they are put down.

“Most of the time animal lovers come out and adopt those dogs deemed unsafe to be left free on the street, so the percentage of destroyed animals tends to be very low,” said Letty’s guardian.

Locals are known to defend those animals that are picked up by animal control. That was the case with Ruby the anti-austerity dog who was picked up when falsely accused of biting a person. Upon investigation, Ruby was deemed friendly and released back to freedom.

Another Grecian street dog that made it to stardom was Louk, a four-legged protestor of the 2010-12 Greek protests.

As an outsider you might notice that Greece’s stray dogs don’t look as happy as most American pampered pets, but rest assure that somewhere in Greece there are many guardian angels that on a daily base take to the streets to care after the community pet.

Street dog. Rhodes, Greece

 

53 thoughts on “Greece’s stray dogs – Loved and cared for by many

  1. Oh wow. Did the author dream this crap up? Have you ever stepped foot in Greece? Or are you just being paid by government officials to mislead people into believing this fantasy sci-fi bullcrap? Maybe do some research next time before writing such a fantasy piece and claiming it to be fact.

    1. FWIW, my wife and I have been to Greece. These dogs are, in deed, everywhere. Particularly in Santorini, the dogs appears healthy and happy. There were community food and water stations for them and the locals regarded them fondly. I can’t speak for the whole country, but the story certainly holds true from what we saw.

      1. Look at my Facebook page to see the REALITY of Greece!!!!!!!!!!! I live it day in day out, not as a tourist!!!!!!!

      2. You were obviously in the parts of Greece that they dress up for tourists. Next time go in the outskirts and see the truth.

    2. This is the most FAKE news ever! The local Greek governments TOTALLY ignore animal laws and are completely absent when it comes to prosecuting animal abuse. Animal abuse is RAMPANT, HORRIFIC in Greece, The few animal activists and associations have their hands full with horror stories every and each day. Greeks are monsters by how they treat animals. The person who wrote this article should have her journalist license revoked for spreading false news!

  2. As long as children are allowed to tear kittens limb from limb and NOTHING is done about it Greece will be a disgrace to all animal lovers!!! You should do more investigating into the Greek animal laws and mistreatment of animals. Find some actual places in Greece and read the true stories!!!!Cats being hammered to death, tossed around like a toy !!!! Some places might take care of some animals BUT all of Greece is NOT kind to animals!!!! Dogs tied up and left to die because they aren’t needed at the moment. You should be ashamed thinking that Greece is completely animal friendly!!! Do the work and find out the TRUTH!!!!

    1. Agree-Greece is a country that hates animals full stop. Stray, hungry & hurt dogs are all over the country dying a slow death..

  3. This is 100% TRUE! My sister wet to Greece to visit friends who live there and told me all about the street dogs and how the people and government take care of them. So “Anonymous” at the top of the page…maybe YOU should do some research and get YOUR facts straight.

    1. I live in Greece (german) for the last 30 years and have been involved in Animal Rescue for 26 years in this country….I have my own little private shelter for rescues and I would advise you to get YOUR facts straight.The government does not take care of the animals.Any rescue,vetbills and boarding costs are paid out of our OWN pockets.There are days at the end of the mont where I sit with 10 Euros in my pocket and pray that none of the dogs get sick since I won’t have the money for the vet.The misery these animals suffer is unbearable….poisoning,hanging,mutilated,raped,dragged behind cars till they die.Come off your cloud nine and face facts…which you obviously have no idea about!

    2. I HAVE JUST RESCUED MY SECOND GREEK DOG , THE WAY THE GREEK PEOPLE TREAT THEIR ANIMALS , IS AN UTTER DISGRACE. !!! IT’S PRETTY OBVIOUS THAT THIS PERSON HAS BEEN PUT UP/PAID ! TO WRITE THIS , I DON’T KNOW HOW THEY SLEEP AT NIGHTS…. iF YOU SEE A DOG ON THE STREET IN THIS COUNTRY , IT’S ALMOST UNHEARD OF , OVER THERE , YOUR KNEE DEEP IN SICK AND ABUSED DOGS , AND THE WAY THEY SHOW THEIR CARE ‘ IS BY POISONING , CUTTING THEIR FEET OFF , WIRING UP THEIR MOUTH’S, HANGING THEM ,TYING THEM UP AND LEAVING THEM TO DIE IN THE HOT SUN , THE GREEK PEOPLE ARE A DISGRACE TO ALL ANIMALS , AND AS A COUNTRY , I WOULD NEVER ! PROP UP THEIR ECONOMY , BY GOING THERE , TILL THEY START TO CARE ABOUT THE ANIMALS , tHEY MAKE ME SICK !!!!

      1. I’m in the USA and we constantly see animals Tied , brutalized , dog fighting for money , Greece is doing what they can

  4. Look up Peanuts Place of Promise and see how much”Government help” they get,NONE!! One woman trying to save lives and get help from ALL OVER THE WORLD!! The Greek government needs to help ALL places trying to save animals,NOT just the TOURIST areas!!! How crappy would all those pretty places be with sick dogs laying around…..

  5. That may be true in Athens and Santorini, both heavy tourist destinations, but it is not true outside of them. There are cases of abuse and neglect that can turn your stomach. Towns that sanction poisoning of strays. Children stoning cats and dogs to death. People flushing kittens down the toilet. It’s fine to applaud a city for caring. However, it does not mean the rest of the country is like that.

  6. Suggest you look at Facebook “Greece Exposed”. That will tell you about the perverted sadists who live in Greece. I was horrified at the cruelty and abuse towards animals that I witnessed. I would never ever visit this God forsaken country again. I support the rescues from afar.

  7. As rosy a picture the author paints, this article is one of two thing: a fairy tale work of fiction or a person that has been duped by a show being out on in a heavily tourist area in an attempt to paint a rosy picture to encourage tourism. The Greece government and many of the residents view the stay dog/cat population as pests (look at the huge numbers of strays poisoned before the last Olympics in an order to “clean up” the streets before the tourists came). If you truly want to see the reality of what happens go to Peanuts Place of Promise on Facebook.

  8. Are you kidding me? To say Greece is great to their dogs is utterly and absurdly untrue. Have you been to Greece? Please do some research! Poisonings and fola (broken glass in food) is used throughout the country to kill dogs and cats — but not done with tourists around, generally. Although tourists have witnessed and virally spread other atrocities such as dogs hanging in trees, etc. I started my Save Santorini’s Dogs…Stop the Poisonings group in February 2009 after living on the island to spread worldwide awareness.
    https://www.facebook.com/groups/44029448741/?fref=ts

    There is also: https://www.facebook.com/groups/38749219814/?fref=ts

    And manyyyy other groups trying to help these dogs on FB…

  9. I am Greek and all I can say is that there are always two sides to every story. What the article says about the volunteers that take care of stray dogs and cats in Greece is VERY TRUE and not only in the tourist areas. We are spread throughout the country and we do whatever we can, feeding, spaying/neutering, vaccinating as many animals as we can.
    The government as a whole is not really interested in the welfare of animals. However, just a few months ago a new law was passed that includes severe fines and punishment for animal abusers. Police are now much more heavily involved in all cases of animal abuse and we have 2 district attorneys especially for animal abuse cases.
    Also, municipalities are responsible for the well-being of stray animals but unfortunately only a few of them do what they are supposed to.
    So, if you don’t know just ask! And if you go and check “Greece exposed” in FB also check “Greece exposed exposed” to see that there are people who are badmouthing Greece just because they don’t like us.
    Yes, there are many cases of animal abuse in Greece, some of them very horrific I might add, however there are not more (percentage wise) than the ones in the rest of the world. I have read about dogs being dragged to death behind cars in the States, puppies and kittens stoned to death by kids in the UK, stray dogs being shot in the middle of the streets in Ukraine, dogs and cats skinned alive in China and even dog brothels in Germany… Should I go on?
    And yes, euthanasia is the very last resort for dogs in Greece (no euthanasia for stray cats). We don’t keep them in the shelters for 15 days and then put them down if no one asks for them. If they are not aggressive or very ill they are usually returned to the street from where they were picked up (after they have been spayed and vaccinated). And they wear tags stating their name, the number that was assigned to them in the shelter and the indication “Taken care by the Municipality of Athens” or whichever other municipality.
    To sum up, what the article shows is the good part. This does not mean that there is not a bad part, however there are far too many people giving their lives in order to make a change for the animals in Greece.
    AND WE ARE VERY PROUD OF IT!

    1. “If they are not aggressive or very ill they are usually returned to the street from where they were picked up (after they have been spayed and vaccinated).”

      Even if they are aggressive they will leave them on the street.

      And for all you people who dislike the poisoning. I hope you will be happy when there are 10 stray dogs on your street, but I know you will never have to deal with it becuase where you live all that nastiness is done out of sight.

      On my street we have a pack of 10 dogs 4 doors down. They are fed by people who believe they are “safe” and yet also “scare away burglars”. The municpality cannot do anything. They feed them but won’t take responsibility for them
      We can’t have pets, we picked up a stray and fed and loved her for months, and then buried her remains after she got caught outside her house by the pack in broad daylight. People can’t take their dogs for a walk, motorcyclists get attacked, my children are scared to walk on the street and we have to walk the long way round when going home from school.

      But that is all OK as long as you can say, “AH!! look how well they care for their strays”.

      I’m from the UK and we wouldn’t put up with the laws foriegn “do gooders” have forced on the Greek state which doesn’t have the resources to care for strays and isn’t allowed to humanely kill them.

      If you don’t have to live with your half-baked ideas of what is and what is not humane mind your own business.

      1. Ever seen the pain this poisoned doggies suffer .
        Unbelievable that you think thats normale. this retarded nation who will not neutre there dogs because god dont want that . You would be ashamed and frustrated and help those animals and make those greec understand this is wrong

    2. SORRY , BUT WE DON’T DO ” STONING ” IN THIS COUNTRY , WE DON’T HAVE ANY STRAY ANIMALS , HERE , YOUR BACKWARD IDEA’S OF THIS ‘COUNTRY , ARE COMPLETELY ‘ UNFOUNDED . YOUR GOVERNMENT FEED’S YOU RUBBISH AND YOU BELIEVE IT , USE YOUR EYE’S .. !!!

  10. The author is so out of touch, it is hardly worth even writing a response. There are many Greek animal rescuers on Facebook which unfortunately gives a totally inaccurate assessment of the situation when in reality the stray problem, the abuse (which includes abandonment of companion animals), neglect of horses and donkeys etc. is getting worse by the day and that is no exaggeration!! I wonder if the author knows for example that it is common practise for a hunter who has dogs that no longer fulfil their “duties”, be it from old age or becoming gun-shy, for them to be hanged in trees.

  11. Thank you Serafina for your truthful comment. At least it sounds better than what we have here and other country’s as far as taking “some” sort of care for the animals.

    There will always be animal abusers wherever you look, at least they are getting some medical attention and the lucky ones, food in Greece.

    Be proud of the change that your country is trying to do!

  12. The sad reality is that there are very few who care for these unwanted animals and so they are poisoned, shot, beaten, hanged and set on fire..for sport.

  13. More than 20 dogs poisoned in the northern city of Veria recently. Why doesn’t the author look into that and the countless others. Wouldn’t take much research at all to find out! There certainly wasn’t much done into the story above. But there will be plenty of proof from any animal welfare group. Why even cordelia Madden the daughter of the retired UK ambassador who is a journalist could tell you some stories. She lives in Athens! Why don’t you write some home truths.

  14. how can they insult peoples intelligence like this with this fake story,greece is horrible with the animals,donkeys on a rope in the middle of the sun,sometimes with 40 degrees,without water.strays full with parisites,skin over bones,kicked,poisened,neglected,wounded and left to die.puppies in plastic bags left on parking places supermarket…if you do some research you will find out that only ONE in 23 pups makes it just the first YEAR.greece do yourself a favour and take this theatre bullshit story away,it makes you look like the laughing stock of Europe,everybody that lives here and done some homework knows this is the biggest b.s ever.its like saying afrika dousnt have hungry children or something,pfffff

  15. safina,somming up countrys that are maybe worse dousnt make Greece better,for now you are number ONE in Europe if it comes to animal abuse,followed by spain.i live here 7 years and have seen the most horrible things ever with animals,i couldn’t even get my head around it how people can be so creul,and don’t say those are exeptions please,most people here are really creul to animals..neglect is also a form of cruelty you know.and the government does NOTHING!!only in parts where theres a lot of tourism,and what they do here is poison most of the strays before the tourist season starts.and proud…..you should have done things ages ago,you know how many animals already died because you did NOTHING.afcourse I am happy its changing a little,but for now I still have to dig a lot of holes every year for my killed straydogs and pups,crying my eyes out and not be able to sleep at night.

  16. What absolute rubbish. I help a Greek rescue and the abuse we deal with day in day out is HORRIFIC. Dogs are poisoned regularly,kicked,ran over,left to starve and die.Un-neutered dogs churning out litter after litter. The situation in Greece is dire and articles like this paint a totally unrealistic picture.I have three Greek dogs asleep on my floor in the UK after being found in a horrible state. Shame on you for even publishing this pack of lies.

  17. just get your facts straight before you write an story about something you obviously know nothing about.

  18. will never visit Greece or its islands which I so loved, after witnessing the barbaric attitude to domestic pets. we managed to bring a little dog back to uk 4years ago, she would have been dead otherwise, and we witnessed the death of a beautiful dog who had been poisoned
    where we had been holidaying. There are some wonderful Greek people who volunteer to help now so this is positive and good, but sadly they are outweighed by the ones who have no conscience or compassion for innocent lives. Get in touch with the wonderful people in the uk who are working tirelessly to make a difference to these precious animals.

  19. I really i am impressed with the ” so many dislikes” about us … Greeks ……. expecially from high level country with no economic problems who spend millions for taxes to execute the abandon dogs… we dont kill the abandon dogs.. i know countles people who feed and pet dogs, cats, pigeons and every animall …i know many pet doctor who take care of street pets with no money… my uncle in the farm has countless cats an he always take care of them and feed them… This cats loves him so much that we notice his approach by the cat army that follows him wherever he goes… i used to work for 5 years in a big shopping center with a big – park area.. and the dog was allways treated with care and was allways friendly and well fed by the costumers and employes… Even We the security had adopt a dog ” His name was Foivos” thats how we vaptised him …he was old but quiet and happy with.. .he kept me so much company at the night and walked handreds of miles with me … we allways used to collect money every end of the month to buy for him food or medicines … and a collar with his name…. he was our beloved friend and partner and i miss him very much… When his time came and he knew his time was coming silently left from our office door and went under some bushes and died peacefuly and quitely for not make us notice what was about to happen .. its easy to gudge a country from some minor experiences … ok we cannot feed and take care of all the dogs and pets….. and ofcourse but people everywhere exists.. but we let them live …and have a chance in life… We dont pay dogcatchers to execute them … everyone has a right to live and pets has more humanity than all of us..

    1. You sound a very nice person, and it’s heartening to know you cared for this dear dog,and are still missing him. Please don’t think I believe all Greek people are uncaring towards the domestic pets. I have visited all parts of Greece many times, and saw for myself how many strays and unwanted sad animals were suffering. This was so sad, and people who were trying to help were finding it very hard. One lovely lady in Rhodes, was laughed and jeered at for all the hard work she did on behalf of these animals by the local people. We in our country are having economic hardships, but for us that care, it is unthinkable to not to protect animals. We have laws to protect our animals in my country, and when neglect or abuse is found, the law deals with the abuser. I hope you are able to look after another stray as you have with this one you have sadly lost, there are so many needing your help and protection. I hope that at some point in time the people of your country and islands come to support and understand why so many wonderful people are trying so hard to show the way forward in animal protection, this would again for me make Greece a most wonderful place to again enjoy visiting.

  20. Every coin has two sides … so people and so countrys…. we have good people who care and bad ..who dont… its sure isnt a nice view to see a skinny dog or cat trying to find food into the garbages. i agree ., and i am not talking for the health reasons … as i said before … there isnt a law or a tax collection from the gorverment for ” taking care” abandoned or lost animals in Greece … and if there was what would you expect to happend … live them run around freely ?? In other countrys ,where this kind of laws exist … this animals becomes pet food or leather shoes for pet friendly people who thinks they care more than others … it sounds to much .. but its easy to see an empty street with no free animals around , just dogs and cats with a collar and a leash and say .. “OH.. our country loves the animals and are all fat and healthy ” …. We all should see and the other side of the coin some times and not just the one we prefer to look……. I appologize for my offensive tone and definetly it has nothing to do with the anonymous friend on the comment above who i really appreciate .. “Do not judge, or you too will be judged” Matthew 7:1 … .Try to be real just ,you . Do the right think for your soul satisfaction and dont blame the other who cant because that will not help .. .your action will make them understand … not some poisonous words.. trust me on this.
    trully yours.. .John

  21. I have been in Santorini for a week and my heart is sick. I have never seen such blatant animal neglect in my life…starving stray dogs and cats, donkeys tied up with no shelter or water, dogs chained (I’m told for years) with no food or water for days. It is disgusting that the Greek people find this acceptable. I will never return and I will tell everyone I know not to visit until the Greek government starts punishing those who commit these crimes.
    The author of this article should be ashamed for such false “reporting”.

    1. I LIVE IN GREECE I HAVE BEEN HERE FOR 5 YEARS,I HAVE LOCALS WHO HAVE DOGS,SOME LET THEM OUT,INSTEAD OF WALKING THEM,SOME DO NOT LET THEM OUT,ONE LOCAL KEEPS 7 DOGS ENCLOSED IN THE GARDEN AND RUN AROUND IN THE HOUSE,THEY ARE STRAYS,THAT THEY COLLECTED,THEY ARE A PACK OF DANGEROUS ANIMALS,EVERY TIME KIDS PASS THEY WOULD KILL THE KIDS,THEY MADE THEM THAT WAY,THEY CALL THEM SELVES ANIMAL LOVERS I DO NOT THINK SO.NOT MANY PEOPLE TRAIN THERE DOGS,THEY LEAVE THEM TO BARK ALL THE TIME,THEY WANT THEM AS GUARD DOGS,BUT THEY DO NOT GO TO SEE WHAT THEY ARE BARKING FOR.ANIMALS ARE BORN WILD,ONLY HUMANS FOR THERE GREEEDY NATURE ALWAYS WANT WHAT THEY ARE LACKING OF.

  22. excuse me misses laura… in your country .. do you have dogs and cats running out of the streets with food for them in every corner … and free by you and your goverment to multiply ?? …. Oh Give a break for christ shake…. people in africa starves to death and you dont give damn…. at least greece doesnt catch the dogs take them somewhere far from your eyesight and executed them in cold blood to use the us material for petfood , clothes and every else your good goverment allows to be used of.. and all of this with your good tax money

  23. at least in my country animals has more freedom than me… and i am happy for them… survival in greece for so many animals isnt a easy task ..especially when even our people are this days in such economic bad shape , and cant even have goods for our selfs .. but i am helping animals… i did before ..and ill do again … and you know why ?? Because i have the chance to see an animal need my help out on the street… what help can you give in a country where you pay someone to clean your precious road and garbage from them…….. Some of you will understand what i am saying ….some others are such Hypocrites .

    1. John – Your explanation seems very typical for a Greek person. The way you are thinking is, unfortunately, out of my realm of understanding.

  24. when you ll have five kittens in your hand diying from illness and youll spend all your time and effort for them to save them , day and night , trying to feed them … health care them and looking at them all the time ,fearing for the worst because there is no hope in their age and condition… and in the end, loose them all .. leaving you with sadness and crying out for every one of them… .. Then and only then you will be in the same realm of undersanding with me.. .

    1. of course some of us are doing a great job with these dogs, but then again… Many more are treating them like sh*t! And if you (not you personaly) talk to a greek person about it, of course they will say, that they are helping the dogs, because they don’t want their people and country to look bad! But the fact that people are lying about, how they treat the animals, is just making them look even more bad, than if they said the truth! I’m half greek, and I have had a lot of experience with the greek mentality!
      Yes, you could be a nice person, but we could be very suspicious towards you, because we have, what we have seen!

  25. Came across this article and grateful for all the coments. Greece was on my bucket list, not anymore now. Was in mauritius for honeymoon, ended up driving around everyday doin strays street feeding. It breaks my heart.

  26. I myself is half greek, and whenever I go to Greece this is NOT what I see. Yes, the country is in deep crisis, but what this article says, is that the dogs are fine. They are not! I saw kids throwing a dog around like a bloody ball. And one of our freinds, who we thouht was a nice person, threw a stone after a dog, that followed us! They do all sorts of things to these poor animals! Like, have this guy even seen the video, where a greek man carved the ears of a dog, and then posted it online?! This article is BS!!

  27. I’m here visiting in Greece traveling with my medical service dog and I’m appalled by what I am seeing. And hearing – its cold right now in Greece and dogs are left outside on a chain barking. They can’t sleep if they’re cold. My dog is afraid to walk past any of them. She’s terrified. I fell down the other day, my dog realised I wasn’t hurt bad so she sat down and waited for me rather than get help. But a woman walked by, looked right at me and kept going! No words like are you ok? If a country can’t behave humanly to animals how can we expect them to behave decently to humans? What happened to the great race of Greeks? There is no compassion here, no caring. I will never come back and can’t wait until I can leave from this visit.

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