Tuesday, 26 March 2013

The importance of neutering

Stray cats and dogs are abundant in Greece, and it is not uncommon to see large groups of them in the streets. This is even more evident in built-up areas, where animals can often be seen congregating near restaurants and in parks.

However, while on the surface you see a group of cute animals relaxing, there lurks a deeper problem underneath. Most of these animals are condemned to a life on the streets – constantly scavenging for food, and often suffering from starvation or disease. When a stray is injured, it has no one to look after it, meaning it may spend the rest of its life with a broken or infected leg, or suffer a painful death as a consequence of the injury.

Tragically, it isn’t uncommon for us to come across unwanted kittens and puppies dumped in litter bins, scared and left to die.

What can we do?

The good news is that the stray problem can be dealt with effectively, with simple neutering programmes. By stopping the stray population from spiralling out of the control, over time the number of strays on the streets is greatly reduced. This mean fewer animals living on the streets, struggling to find food. It also takes the strain off undernourished mothers, who are too weak to care for large numbers of offspring. Neutering also causes males to become less aggressive and less likely to get into fights with other animals, which could lead to injury.
Happy and neutered

GAWF helps in two ways:

• Organising neutering programmes – we work to neuter strays in specific areas, after which they are released back into to the same area. This generally prevents new animals from colonising in the area and reproducing.
• Education – we work with the local communities, showing them how to look after strays and ensure that stray populations do not get out of control. We find that in areas where the community looks after the street animals, incidents of cruelty and poisoning are rare.

How can you help?

Your donations help fund the neutering programmes, and give us the resources we need to educate local communities. We work with friendly vets and have managed to get the cost of neutering right down to just £30. Your donations are vitally needed and together we can:
• Reduce illness in strays, by vaccinating them
• Prevent animals from starving, by controlling their populations
• Ease the strain on undernourished mothers, who are too weak to care for their offspring
• Reduce cruelty towards strays by educating local communities
• Treat injured, ill, or poisoned animals who would otherwise have no one to look after them.
Please donate today, and make a difference to the lives of these beautiful, innocent animals. Thank you. For more about our neutering programme click here.

Monday, 11 March 2013

Taking the law into their own hands

By Anna Stamatiou

The economic crisis is having far-reaching consequences at all levels of Greek society.  In the field of animal welfare it is clear that less weight is being given to all kinds of issues.  It has almost become politically incorrect to demand of the police that they should spend increasingly scarce resources to prosecute animal abusers, check on conditions for animals in transit, attend a report of a permanently tethered dog… or seek to identify and bring to justice a neighbourhood poisoner.

English: It's only a matter of time until we find you
 Ordinary, caring citizens as well as committed welfare activists have become enraged by the state’s failures, and this has led to increasing incidents of direct action, or vigilantism.  Graffiti have been appearing at the entrances to buildings where poisoners are thought to live.  These scrawled messages can be as nasty and threatening as those that the UK saw in 2000 when the News of the World “named and shamed” individuals thought to be guilty of child abuse, and baying mobs gathered outside the houses of sometimes innocent people in the city of Portsmouth. 

 This trend means that normally law-abiding people are being driven to behave in illegal ways (making threats and defacing property) and that the potentially innocent may be wrongly accused and persecuted.  It must be hell for the residents of the affected apartment blocks. 
Why do people go out and poison strays in the first place?  Online welfare sites in Greece are full of purple language fulminating against the “perverts” and “psychos” that carry out indiscriminate poisoning.   I have never seen any attempt at a balanced assessment of motivations other than these, and until there is one the root causes of such illegal and barbaric acts will never be successfully addressed.  Why, can’t the welfare community sensibly discuss the problems that both strays and owned cats and dogs can cause?  What about the poo-covered pavements?  The endless all night barking of confined dogs?  Attacks by packs or bad-tempered individual dogs on both pets and people?  The strewing of stinky detritus all over the street when rubbish bags are torn open by scavenging animals?  The fear of communicable disease that is only strengthened by the sight of unkempt, unhealthy-looking animals?

English: Murderer of animals - we have found you
Greece needs to deal with the problem of its strays in a more honest and focussed way… numbers need to be managed, and dangerous dogs should be taken off the street permanently.  Neutering helps with this but it isn’t a complete solution.  In an ideal world there would be no strays at all on the streets.  Tolerating even low numbers of them communicates the wrong message:  “It is okay for cats and dogs that no one takes responsibility for to be here”.  Actually, no, it’s not.  All cats and dogs should be owned and taken responsibility for, they should be properly cared for in sickness and in health for the whole of their lives, and prevented from causing nuisance and from producing unwanted litters of kittens and pups.  Until Greek society “gets it” incidents of mass poisonings look likely to continue.  

Tuesday, 5 March 2013

GAWF Equine Project

GAWF’s Equine Project was started in 1999, with the goal of alleviating the suffering of horses, donkeys and mules in Greece.

Working equines are common in Greece, and their numbers have increased in recent years. Rising unemployment has resulted in many workers relocating from cities to more rural areas, where equines are frequently used for agriculture. In less developed of Greece where there are no roads, equines are sometimes the only means of transporting produce around.

These rural areas often lack the vital resources required to keep equines healthy and happy, such as local farriers (hoof care specialists), dental technicians and vets. 

In addition, many owners are unaware of the how to care for their animals, or they simply don’t realise the level of maintenance they require.  Common problems we come across are:

  • Hobbling - restrictive binding of the animal's legs, to prevent it from wandering too far. Unbeknownst to a lot of owners, this can cause pain and serious health problems such as fractures, dislocations and tendon injuries
  • Severe tendonitis, bruised soles and foot abscesses.
  • Overgrown, twisted or diseased hooves - often a result of heavy work on hard ground, or overfeeding. Again, owners often do not know how to spot these afflictions.
  • Dental problems - left unchecked, equines can develop sharp edges on their molars, which cut their mouths and make eating difficult. This can develop into severe health problems, pain, and even death from starvation or blood loss if an artery is severed.
  • Birth problems - just like humans, equines can develop life threatening problems during birth. When a trained vet is not present, there are risks for both mother and baby.

It is vital for the health and well-being of working equines in Greece that we are able to give care directly to these animals, and educate people on how to look after them. 

Taking Action
In the early days, we found that people were wary of our motives and suspicious of our credentials. How were people to know that we wouldn’t damage their animal’s feet and leave it lame and unable to work for weeks? Over time, we demonstrated that we have all the necessary training, professionalism and qualifications to help these animals, and we have built up a name that is well known and trusted throughout Greece.

How does GAWF help?
Your donations help by funding GAWF to:
  • advise and instruct owners on how to care for their animals
  • send outreach teams (usually an equine farrier, vet  and equine dentist) to visit equines
  • offer treatment to over 1,250 equines every year, including 100’s of life-saving procedures
  • train Greek veterinary students and fund courses for them in Greece and the UK
  • provide instructional materials and training guides for those working in the field.
Please help us to continue by donating on our website. We desperately need funds to continue our Equine Project, so we can not only prevent equine suffering, but ensure that many poor people in Greece are able to make a living during the economic slump.