Tuesday, 26 February 2013

The Acropolis Crew
by Anna Stamatiou

As a Trustee of GAWF/Animal Action who lives in Athens, I have daily first-hand experience of what life on the streets is like for stray dogs in the city centre.

Sotiris, Kessaras, Goofy, Prokopis, Liza and Brave hang out where the buses that empty loads of tourists coming to visit the Acropolis stop.  They guard their territory with passion, and have developed certain behaviours that may be unique to the packs that live at archaeological sites all over Greece.  For instance, they will temporarily adopt and “shepherd” groups of tourists, walking along with them and guarding them from any other dog, and even from passing joggers! Their freewheeling lifestyle has its highs and lows and they definitely add “a certain something” to the experience of taking a walk on Philopappos hill!

Sotiris is the cranky leader of the pack.  Every afternoon he watches out for the ladies that come to feed him and the rest of the crew.  You don’t want to approach him when they are around, as he is likely to snarl and snap.  Prokopis is usually mild mannered – except when he spots my dog, Jelhi, who he has taken a particular dislike to.  Even though I regularly bribe him with a little treat, he is always keen to chase her off his patch, and poor Jelhi watches out for him and gives him as wide a berth as she can.  If he spots her, there is a flurry of large blackness seeing off some rather pathetic, whiteness amid lots of noise, but never any real damage.  Shaggy, grey Goofy used to be a playful pup but now he has become a bit of a loner.  Poor Liza got run over by a car, and for a long time couldn’t put one of her feet to the ground, as it was so badly mashed. 

 Brave is a fringe member of the Crew, as he has adopted the kiosk that stands a little further along the pedestrianised walkway, as his home territory.  Hugely thick-coated and round as a barrel, he doesn’t seem to mind sleeping out in the rain at all.

We often think of strays in Athens as hungry, bony waifs but the Acropolis Crew is very well (over) fed by a self-appointed team of caring, local ladies.  My two dogs have discovered the places where the ladies leave the dried food they bring, and it’s an everyday battle to keep them away from any leftovers.  The Crew knows where there are taps that drip even in the Summer.  So its basic needs are met.

The system breaks down when veterinary care for strays is needed.  Liza’s horrible injury went untreated for days, while elderly Jack, now no longer with us, had the most enormous tumour, the size of a football, under his chin, which no one would take responsibility for.  Local opinion was fiercely divided.  Some people wanted to see him operated on, others felt he should be gently put down, still others felt nature should be allowed to take its course.  In the end he was taken to the vet – far too late – and an operation was carried out.  Jack didn’t survive the strain of it. 

On the upside, all these dogs are free to come and go as they please, but I’m not looking forward to the next time one of them needs treatment for any serious condition.

Please visit www.gawf.org.uk and make a donation to help us save dogs like poor Jack in future.

Tuesday, 5 February 2013

Introduction to GAWF

Introduction to GAWF

What is GAWF?
GAWF is an animal welfare charity based in London, England and Athens, Greece. It was started in 1959 by Eleanor Close. The aim of the charity is to provide protection and care for animals in Greece. This is a huge task as there are many animals in need of help, such as stray cats and dogs, abandoned pets, working animals and farm animals. 

Vitally Needed
Since the financial crisis in 2008, the economy of Greece has suffered a major decline. Many people can no longer afford to care for their pets properly. Large numbers of stray cats and dogs roam the streets of Greece, hungry and often suffering from disease. Animal shelters, neutering programmes and adoptions are desperately needed to provide for these poor animals. 

Because of the economy, many people have moved away from the cities to rural areas, relying on working animals such as horses to make a living. Many equine owners do not have the resources or knowledge to look after these animals properly.
Animal farming conditions are also a serious concern in Greece. While some progress has been made in improving animal welfare legislation, many farms and slaughterhouses are still not properly regulated. There are vast numbers of animals suffering in terrible living conditions as a result.

How we can help

Stray animal welfare

Anyone who has been in a Greek city is aware of the many stray cats and dogs. These animals are condemned to a life on the streets, malnourished and treated like vermin. We have a social responsibility to help these poor homeless animals.

We can make a real difference to the stray problem, with simple neutering programmes. Neutering reduces overpopulation, and eases the strain on weak mothers who cannot handle raising too many offspring.

Your donations help to fund neutering, and provide vaccinations from disease. You can also help us to educate local communities in how to provide and care for these animals responsibly. Even a small donation can make a real difference to the lives of stray cats and dogs.

Care for Horses and Donkeys
Working equines are common in Greece, and they are relied upon heavily for transporting agricultural produce in rural areas.

Sadly, many equine owners do not have the resources to adequately care for horses and donkeys. Common problems we come across are twisted hooves, tendonitis, bruised soles, and foot abscesses. These can cause the animal a lot of pain and lead to serious injury. 

Equines also require regular dentistry. Left unchecked, their teeth can develop conditions which cause the animal severe pain, problems eating, and even fatal blood loss.

With your donations, we are able to arrange outreach visits to treat horses – vital in remote areas where there are no local veterinary services (or where the owners are to poor to afford care). The money that you give also enables us to train equine owners to look after their animals correctly, and to recognise and prevent injury.

Farm animals: born into a life of suffering
While animal legislation exists in Greece, these laws are not high priority for the government – meaning many farms and slaughterhouses are not properly monitored or inspected.

As a result, many animals are raised in horrific living conditions:
  •  Chickens are kept in cages where they are unable to move, keeping them in a state of constant pain for their entire lives. They may die a slow painful death in overcrowded cages, where their corpses are not noticed.
  • Distressed hens attack and even cannibalise each other, and live out their lives with painful injuries and infections. 
  • Pigs are often castrated without any anaesthetic.
  • Sows live without any bedding, and without any room to turn over or move.
  • Cattle have no regulation, meaning many live with illness or injury, and are unable to graze or express their natural behaviours.
We aim to improve this situation by lobbying the Greek government, and by campaigning to raise public awareness of farm animal suffering. Your donations pay for the vital resources needed for this. Please help us to stop the suffering of millions of farm animals by donating today.
Other Activities
  •  We run a veterinary care fund, which aims to help people who can no longer afford to care for their pets - essential to a country with so few animal shelters.
  • Adoption programmes - for those that would like to help first hand with animal rescue. For more details, head over to our Facebook page to see our virtual animal shelter. 
  • Education strategies - educating the public is an important part of improving animal welfare in Greece. Distributing leaflets, arranging seminars and visiting schools are just some of the efforts we make. 
We desperately need your help to continue working for animal protection in Greece. Every penny we receive helps to relieve the suffering of these beautiful innocent creatures – the forgotten victims of the economic crisis.

Please donate today, and help ease the suffering of millions of helpless animals.