As every visitor to Athens will attest to, the city is home to thousands of stray dogs and cats that roam the streets. While a stray sleeping peacefully in the quaint Athens neighborhood of Plaka might be a good photo-op, the reality is that these animals may spend all their difficult lives scavenging for food and looking for a safe place to spend the night. Thankfully, a number of organizations and their dedicated volunteers care for these animals.
Since 2006, the Municipality of Athens has been working hard to reduce the number of animals on the streets. Many of its departments, such as the Department of Social Welfare and the Department of Urban Fauna, work together to sterilize, hospitalize, and document stray animals. While the program initially focused on stray dogs, in 2012, cats were also included.
The Municipality and its volunteers don’t just treat and document animals – they prepare many for adoption as well. The city of Athens has an official website where one can find more information on how and where to adopt a stray animal. Anyone interested can browse through available strays and either call or e-mail, in order to set up a time and date to meet the animal up close.
Another, private organization, whose goal is to aid stray animals is the Elliniki Filozoiki Etairia (EFE). Established in 1975 in Spata, the EFE serves multiple missions: strays are taken care of and are found new homes, lost animals are reunited with their owners, and the public, especially the younger generation, is educated on how to become responsible pet owners and animal lovers. As the EFE’s headquarters are on the outskirts of Athens, the organization also aids animals from the city’s surrounding suburbs. The EFE’s web site, just like the one provided by the city of Athens, showcases animals that are ready to be adopted. There are also guidelines on how to properly take care of one’s newly adopted dog or cat. Furthermore, anyone can become a member of the EFE, after filling out a simple form.
While the Municipality of Athens and the EFE deal primarily with stray domesticated animals, another organization, ANIMA, deals with the greater Attica prefecture’s wildlife. The Association for the Protection and Welfare of Wildlife, was founded in 2005. ANIMA is supported by many specialized individuals such as veterinarians, environmentalists, and legal consultants. Operating out of Kallithea, ANIMA volunteers collect, care for and ultimately release animals back into the wild. A new center (animal hospital and information center) will soon be in operation in Lagonisi, located in the outskirts of Athens.
ANIMA deals with commonly seen animals such as deer and rabbits, but volunteers have also rescued and treated rarer animals such as the mute swan, vulture, and the long-nosed viper. More information, including statistics on rescued animals, can be found in ANIMA’s yearly reports that are available online.
ANIMA was not only launched to protect animals, but the organization campaigns to educate the public about their cause, and the environment. To this end, ANIMA also works with other non-governmental organizations, like the International Wildlife Rehabilitation Council and the National Wildlife Rehabilitators Association.
From the ordinary stray dog to the wild snake, there are many animals in Athens and its periphery that are in need of care. Be it shelter, food, treatment for wounds, or all three, these animals have found people dedicated to helping them. Organizations like the Athens Municipality, the EFE and ANIMA, inspire one to help animals that are unable to help themselves.
Web sites for quick reference:
Municipality of Athens: http://www.cityofathens.gr/stray_animals
Mary Doufekias is a Greek-American writer who lives in Athens, Greece. She will soon be a graduate from Empire State College – New York College with a degree in Communications. She hopes to one day get her novels published.
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