Monday, 29 April 2013

Why we need home-grown expertise in Greece

By Anna Stamatiou

Greek volunteers vets working with the support
of Animal Action/GAWF. April 2013.
GAWF Animal/Action has historically relied on expertise from the UK.  Our trusted professional partners have, over the years, helped to build the image of thorough knowledge, high standards and unselfish commitment to animal welfare that the organisation now enjoys.  This is of inestimable value, and something we are justly proud of.  Vets, farriers, equine dentists, veterinary nurses and even our office staff have all to a lesser or greater extent in the past been trained in the UK.  Recently we have been deliberately moving to change this… why?
We know that in order for the way animals are regarded (and therefore treated) to change radically across every level of Greek society, the animal welfare message has to be embraced by the Greek public.  If that is to happen, we have gradually to withdraw anything that feels like “foreign” support and encourage the Greeks to take on the issues and deal with them for themselves. 

That is why we have regularly sent Greek professionals to train in the UK, honing and adding to the skills they already have, so that we can work with them when they return and allow them, through the practical, hands-on work they do, to communicate the idea that animal welfare is not something only crazy foreigners care about. 
But we can’t train enough people, fast enough.  That means we must build a local, home grown network of professionals that appreciate the need for our high standards and aim continually to improve their practice and add to their knowledge.  This is what we have been aiming for of late but the process is not without its risks and drawbacks. 

Initially good supervision and guidance are needed.  One difficulty that has been put in our way is the attitude of the Greek government towards the use of foreign vets…  Although on paper they may come and practice, there are so many hoops for them to jump through, that in effect it is not practical to use them – at least not if we want to remain within the law.  This means we cannot derive the benefit of their skills and experience while working in the field, and our Greek colleagues miss out on potential learning opportunities.
Then, Greek vets and their professional body do not want to see volunteers from overseas coming in and offering their services at low or no cost.  They believe this takes away their customers and undermines their position and their fee structures.  So they are inclined to report any activity of this kind to the authorities, in an effort to stop it. 

Now, one of the principal funding bodies in the UK, which used to support GAWF/Animal Action’s work most generously, has decided that, in the face of government and professional intransigence and lack of cooperation, it will, with immediate effect, suspend all its funding for welfare work in Greece.  That should send a loud message to the government and the professional body concerned, but in fact we do not have the impression that anyone is really taking any notice.  The way they see it, it’s just another case of the foreigners trying to tell the Greeks how to run their country. 

Nevertheless, there are also positive signs, one of which is the recent formation of an association of Greek volunteer vets, and we are making headway in building strong local partnerships that are constantly under review.  With these, we will spread our work and messages deeper than ever into Greek society until the idea of mistreating or neglecting the needs of any animal becomes as repugnant in Greece as it was to our founder, Eleanor Close, over 50 years ago.

Monday, 22 April 2013

A permanent vet surgery for Paxos Animal Welfare Society (PAWS) on Paxos.

By Lindsay Geddes

Whilst holidaying in Paxos in 2005, I was saddened to see so many stray cats and no veterinary services on the island to take care of the situation. To my surprise, the mayor agreed to my ideas to help improve animal welfare and PAWS was created.
Lindsay and PAWS volunteers with the Mayor of Paxos

In the beginning our main concern was to offer regular veterinary services together with a sterilisation programme. Starting from scratch, we took advice from UK vets about what basic drugs and equipment to buy. We compiled a much longer list than anticipated and shipped out boxes of supplies by courier or carried excess baggage whenever we travelled.
We advertised on the WVS website for vets and nurses and fortunately received a very positive response. Many of our volunteers have made return visits and two of our current vet teams have been volunteering for PAWS for 5 years.

During a recent neutering trip with GAWF/Animal Action
Although we have the use of a garden flat in Gaios which we set up as a temporary surgery, PAWS has been striving to obtain a suitable building that we can convert to a permanent clinic. We were therefore delighted in 2012 when the mayor and municipality agreed to give us a building in Magazia as permanent premises. During the winter of 2012/13, these premises have been cleared and renovation work started.

Residents of Paxos have come together to work on this project and the imagination and innovation of some of the volunteers has been amazing. To find a rusty old BBQ and convert this into a surgery trolley beggared belief but the pictures don't lie!

Above: the rusty BBQ before
Below: transformed into a surgery trolley
Once the work has been completed in the next month, new anaesthetic equipment and surgical supplies will be ordered so that PAWS can expand its services to operate safely on dogs. This will be a great step forward for animal welfare on Paxos as currently travelling to Corfu by boat to seek veterinary care is far from ideal.

 As part of our fund raising activities, Lucy Davis (whose parents live on Paxos), Lindsay (the director of PAWS) and Graham (a PAWS volunteer) are taking part in Action Challenge events at the end of May and June respectively. We hope to raise as much money as possible so as to be able to satisfactorily fund the new surgery. Donations can be made via Just Giving.
For more information and photos on all of the above please see our website at 
And of course please come and visit us when on holiday in Paxos!
PAWS is one of the animal welfare societies in Greece supported by GAWF/Animal Action Greece.

Tuesday, 16 April 2013

Why Greek Animals? By Lucy Westmore, Head of UK Operations, GAWF

Whilst fundraising at Brighton train station, a young man approached me to put some money in my collecting tin and asked

‘why the GREEK Animal Welfare Fund, is it really that bad over there?’

Sadly the answer is yes and, due to the dire economic situation in Greece right now, GAWF is needed more than ever. Animals have become the latest victims of the financial crisis as they are neglected and often turned out onto the street when people can longer afford to keep them. Luckily GAWF/Animal Action is there to step in and help. Here’s a little bit about how and why we became the Greek Animal Welfare Fund…

Back in 1959, a British woman, Eleanor Close, moved to Greece with her husband and was shocked by scenes of animal abuse and neglect that confronted her. Sick and starving dogs and cats roaming the streets; bony dogs in hospital laboratories waiting their turn to take part in cruel experiments; exhausted horses and donkeys at the end of their working lives - abandoned to fend for themselves because they were no longer useful and abattoirs using medieval practices in the slaughter of animals.  The list goes on.

Mrs Close quickly set up a working group of Greek, English and American women and their aim was to change the way people viewed animals but above all, to improve their lives. 

Over the decades that followed, GAWF made dramatic inroads and supported hundreds of local welfare groups, fundraised for veterinary equipment and medicines and donated these, neutered and treated countless animals, gave grants and emergency funding to those in desperate need and launched a national education drive to raise awareness of the needs of animals – to name just a few of our activities.

Today, we are continuing the work Mrs Close began, reinvigorated and with as strong a will as ever, always with the same aim:  to improve the welfare of all animals in Greece. 

GAWF now operates in Greece as Animal Action (because the Action happens in Greece and we Fund the work from the UK).  We believe in working within Greece to find practical and sustainable solutions to animal welfare problems and each year we help thousands of animals. We have seen a vast improvement in the way people treat animals in the 50+ years GAWF has been active and we are certain we will continue to see more positive results as we look to the future.

Mrs. Close
So - going back to the guy at the train station - I told him that GAWF is absolutely essential for the animals in Greece and we do need a charity working specifically for them.  Sadly, Mrs Close is no longer with us but I often wonder whether she ever imagined what an amazing and lasting legacy she would leave.

Greece is a beautiful country and it is often only ignorance that is responsible for the poor treatment of animals. By working with the people in Greece, in a way that shows them the benefit of treating animals compassionately, we are seeing real changes. So do holiday there, and have a fantastic time safe in the knowledge that GAWF will be there for the animals all year round, and for as long as they need us.

You can help us care for animals in Greece. Please click here to make a donation. Thank you.