Greek compulsory castration plan to fight wanderers hits opposition | Greece
Greece’s perennial problem with stray cats and dogs has been highlighted by the outrage of vets and breeders over a bill to make the castration of animals compulsory.
The country has one of the largest populations of felines and stray dogs in the world, with the problem becoming increasingly acute during the country’s protracted debt crisis. Animal rights activists estimate that Athens alone could have up to 2 million street cats and dogs. The management of stray animals is the responsibility of local municipalities.
The bill is in public consultation until it is put to a vote in June, but has already seen coordinated opposition from veterans, who went on strike last week.
“Studies in the US and Australia have proven that compulsory sterilization just doesn’t work,” said Manos Vorrisis, who runs a low-cost sterilization clinic on the Aegean island of Syros. Breeders say the law, specifically aimed at tackling the problem of stray animals, could result in the end of the pedigrees that have existed in Greece since ancient times.
“It’s not just mandatory sterilizations,” said Theodosis Papandreou, who runs the only club in the country representing amateur breeders. “The law also reduces the ability of owners to have litters, which would ultimately mean the end of unique pedigrees here.”
As the home of Europe’s oldest dog, the Cretan dog, and other dogs immortalized in ancient murals, statues and vases, it was the authorities’ responsibility to ensure their survival, he said.
“We should do everything to preserve these rare breeds and not make them disappear at a time when we want to participate in dog shows like Crufts [held in the UK]. This new law will be a fatal mistake if it has such an effect on thoroughbreds.
Across the Eastern Mediterranean, initiatives are underway to raise awareness of animal rights in countries that too often have depended on networks of volunteers to save abandoned animals.
Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis recently adopted a rescue puppy, Peanut, in hopes of bringing the issue to light, as did Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades before him. Like Cyprus, Greece has a powerful hunting lobby that is often blamed for the inhumane treatment of dogs that is no longer seen as useful. In both countries, stories of animal cruelty are common.
The bill was drafted in the hope of convincing the Greeks not only of the need to sterilize cats and dogs, but to treat them humanely.
“It’s time for Greece to move forward with courageous measures to protect our boyfriends,” Mitsotakis tweeted alongside a video on the bill. “Protecting animals is a matter of civilization,” he said, noting that the legislation also aims to protect animals from abuse by facilitating adoption processes.
Opposition to sterilization is a cultural problem in Greece. “The men in this country are particularly opposed because they equate sterilization with the deprivation of animals of their virility,” said Efi Tsekmesoglou of the Chania branch of the Association for Animal Welfare in Crete. “Every day we find boxes and bags of kittens and puppies in garbage cans, most of them thrown away by hunters and shepherds. Of course, there should be mandatory sterilization.
Breaking with the past, prison sentences and heavy fines are included in the bill for offenses ranging from illegal animal trafficking to theft of pets.
Penalties of up to 50,000 euros are foreseen for cases of torture and abuse, including “poisoning, hanging, drowning, crushing and mutilation” of animals, all regularly observed in rural areas.
The Greek Animal Welfare Fund, a UK-based charity that has been campaigning for animal welfare for decades, sees the bill as long overdue. Speaking in London, Paul McGlone, the charity’s director, praised its scope and provisions which include mandatory microchipping and the creation of a national registry to register animal ownership . “It is clearly very ambitious and will require a lot of changes in attitudes and behavior,” he said.
“But he clearly intends to bring the large number of stray cats and dogs in the country under control and, gradually but humanely, to reduce them by promoting and enforcing sterilization. We welcome the general intention behind this new legislation. “