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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Street dog. Rhodes, Greece