The Greek charities are just too many, because there is help needed in every single part of the country and it would be impossible for me to include them all. These are the ones I have helped and volunteered at and the order here is based on the “working hours” I have spent volunteering or making videos for them. They consist of people I know, trust and admire.
ZEIL – Ilioupolis Animal Welfare Union
ZEIL was the first charity I volunteered at. I first met them when I found my dog, Apollo. He was the first dog I rescued, and I had no idea what to do and how to help him. ZEIL vaccinated him, had him tested and neutered, and after a few months of fostering him I adopted him.
Ιlioupolis Animal Welfare Union is a not-for-profit, animal rescue organization established in 1997. Their main activities include rescuing and caring for stray animals in the vicinity of the Municipality of Ilioupolis (a northern suburb of Athens) and of surrounding areas. Every year, the organization cares for, feeds, vaccinates and neuters a big amount of strays, mainly cats and dogs, whilst promotes the adoption of strays through various media. Due to its charitable character, the organization relies heavily on donations and volunteer work.
Being a citizen of Ilioupolis and an animal lover makes you one of the luckiest people on earth. ZEIL has managed to maintain the municipality stray-free for years, and dogs being abandoned in the area barely remain on the streets for more than a few days.
Save a Greek Stray
Save a Greek Stray is a non-profit organization whose goal is protecting animals, founded on Erietta Kourkoulou-Latsis’ private initiative. The organization’s mission involves TNR, rescuing and rehoming stray dogs and cats.
This is their official “who we are” description, because Save a Greek Stray never wants to brag, but all I want to do is brag about them. I first visited the shelter in October 2015 and have been volunteering there ever since. Explaining what Save a Greek Stray actually is just too difficult, so maybe this article will help. Basically, it is the place where the most unwanted, hurt and forgotten are given a second chance. The rescue dogs I have met there and seen come back to life come from all parts of Greece, and they are so many, that even I can’t keep track. You can check out a playlist of the shelter’s rescues – the ones I filmed (including the love of my life, Petra) are less than 1% of what’s going on there every day, and this is not an exaggeration.
The shelter is a model one, not just for the Greek standards. In a beautiful place, with big kennels, providing an outdoor and indoor space for the dogs, a huge area where they get to exercise for long hours every day, an infirmary, a small clinic, two offices, and my favorite part: a lake! If you have 30 minutes, you can watch this long, embarrassing vlog, in which I take you on a tour around the entire shelter.
SCARS is the newest charity of all, founded just in November 2015. SCARS stands for Second Chance Animal Rescue Society, stating the charity’s main belief that all animals deserve a second chance.
The charity -based on volunteer work and donations- is mainly focused on cat welfare and rescue, and if you are a cat lover, this is the charity you will adore. With a huge (no exaggeration: HUGE) TNR mission, and some of the most experienced cat people involved, SCARS is the charity that sees no cat as non-adoptable. Having a soft spot for special needs cats and kittens (blind, deaf, three legged) and making huge efforts to rehome them, SCARS might be a new charity, but has managed to establish itself as one of the most dedicated ones.
I am a dog person, but since I have been a member of SCARS since the beginning, I have learned more about cats than I even thought I would. TNR, properly caring for stray cats, fostering, rescuing, and rehoming them. If you are more into dogs, check out Blue’s and Bella’s stories.
One of the oldest Greek charities, SPAZ operates in the southern suburbs of Athens and it is run entirely by volunteers. Since 1987, SPAZ’s aim has been to control the stray animal population by neutering and homing as many stray cats and dogs, as possible and to encourage responsible pet ownership.
I started helping SPAZ around spring 2016, and I only have respect for what they stand for. It is a generous and respectful charity, maintaining a low profile and trying to do the best for the stray animals of the municipality and the surrounding areas. SPAZ’s work is about quality, not quantity, working mainly with foster homes and trying their best to help their rescue overcome medical and behavioral issues.
The Greek Animal Welfare Fund (GAWF), operating in Greece as Animal Action Greece, is a charity based in London and Athens that strives to improve the welfare of all animals in Greece. Founded in 1959, GAWF works with street animals, working animals, pet animals – in fact, any animals that need help. As well as practical and veterinary work, which is often life-saving, it campaigns and lobbies the Greek Parliament, supports smaller animal welfare groups in Greece, runs an education program and offers training in animal care.
Basically, Animal Action is everywhere and it is there for everyone. From helping and neutering stray dogs and cats to improving farm animal welfare and caring for horses, donkeys and mules, GAWF’s mission statement is : “Striving to improve the welfare of animals in Greece”. All animals. Its staff includes vets, equine dentists, and farriers.
Every weekend, the Animal Action staff is in a different part of rural Greece,
ceaselessly neutering stray dogs and cats, providing medical care for the local donkeys, mules and horses and supporting the “stop the trucks” campaign, determined to end the inhumane transportation of poultry, live cattle, pigs, sheep, goats and equines.
Why Penny? Well Penny was just another stray dog. Every day, at the bust stop, she would meet Ellie, an Australian woman, working as a journalist in Greece at the time. One day Penny just wasn’t here anymore. The security guards pointed at a corpse on the side of the road, and there she was, probably poisoned or hit by a car. Ellie named her charity after her, and about the marathon, well, there actually is a marathon taking place every year, both in Greece and Australia, where animal lovers get to run …kilometers, spreading the word. Check it out here.
Apart from running once a year for the cause, Penny Marathon supports various other Greek charities and individual rescuers, like they did in Oliver’s case. It provides “both a voice to stray, abandoned, neglected and abused companion animals (cats and dogs) and support to the people and groups that fight to save their lives”. The money raised through donations and sales is primarily used for various stages of the rescue–rehome process.
Greek Animal Rescue
Greek Animal Rescue is a UK based registered charity, founded in 1989, which aims to help the abused, neglected, stray, and injured animals of Greece. GAR supports a number of Greek animal shelters and finds homes “for the lucky few in the UK and several other EU countries.”
Now why is there an English charity helping out the Greek strays? Well, because they need all the help they can get, and even that is not enough. Gar knows that, and there is even a section in their website providing tourist advice for animal lovers visiting Greece on how to deal with abuse and neglect cases. Two of my favorite rescue dogs are under GAR’s protection, Spok and Nicky.