I am not here to talk about numbers – I don’t know the numbers anyway. I know that the number of abandoned dogs in Greece is ridiculously high – just one more reason to be ashamed of a country we were taught to be proud of. Another thing that a lot of people don’t know is that in Greece there are no shelters where you can just walk into and leave the dog you don’t want anymore. This means that the only option for someone who wants to get rid of a dog – not rehome him or anything, just get rid of him- is 1) leaving him somewhere in the middle of nowhere tied, so that the dog can’t follow them, like they did with Alma or Tool, 2) drive around, preferably in rural areas, open the car door, dump the dog and let him chase the car until he’s too exhausted to go on (like they did with Mel) and 3) take him to an island (oh, we have plenty of islands!) and leave him there – there’s no way the dog will ever track them down.
There isn’t the slightest bit of exaggeration in all of the above. Dog rescuers and everyone involved in Greek charities face that every day. So, when it comes to excuses about abandonment, things get tense. Because it’s not an excuse to justify leaving a dog at a shelter, but an excuse to justify leaving it in the middle of nowhere to fight for his life and to survive on his own -and there is simply no excuse for that.
It used to be a normal thing to dump your dog, for all sorts of reasons. One of the most common ones has to do with hunting dogs and their lack of hunting skills. Hunters never treated their dogs as pets anyway, so if a dog cannot hunt anymore, the common practice was (still is) to simply dump it in the mountain and let it die of starvation. For many people it is still the normal thing to do – the numbers cannot lie anyway. However, since animal welfare organizations keep pushing for stricter laws and campaigns against animal abandonment thrive in social media, abandonment is illegal (according to the law) and frowned upon (according to society). So now, the only thing that has actually changed is that when you abandon your dog, you simply cannot brag about it. Ain’t that progress?
The situation in Greece gets worse every year. With a huge number of strays roaming the streets, pets being abandoned every day, and thousands of morons breeding their dogs and abandoning every single new litter on the street, rescuers have become so thick skinned that we barely have any feelings anymore – at least that’s what it looks like.
I am not sure what is wrong with Greek people. Somehow, it appears that we have lost our humanity. The incidents of abandonment and animal abuse are so many every day that walking down the street makes you believe that you are surrounded by abusers. You see, it is not just one case of a dog left without shadow or water on the roof of a house, not just one dog found hang or drowned, not just one abandoned dog in the middle of nowhere, not just one litter of puppies left in a carton box next to a dumpster. There are hundreds of incidents every day – some make it to social media and some never do.
Abandonment is about education, and about getting away with it (if you do it the “Greek way.” Greeks are ill educated when it comes to animal well being and you see that every day. We do have cheap internet, we do have thousands of social media active animal charities and rescue groups, and we do have access to all sorts of information but for some reason most of us are unable to even google: “Things I need to know before getting a dog.” How is that possible? Personally I have become so thick skinned that every time I am asked for help from someone I just answer “Google it” and hang up. I simply can’t understand how that someone is able to play candy crash saga on facebook everyday but hasn’t heard about Google search.
Supposedly, abandoning your dog is illegal. Supposedly, dog owners are obliged to have their dogs microchipped and registered. Supposedly. But as usual, in Greece everybody does as they please. Few dogs are registered, and even if they are, you can always get away with anything – look at what happened to Combo. Until there are policemen patrolling the streets, knocking on doors and roaming the Greek countryside checking if pets, hunting dogs and barrel dogs (yes, this is exactly what it sounds like – dogs chained in barrels) are registered and well treated, anyone can get away with it. And they do.