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World Animal Day and the Issue of Animal Rights in Greece

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Cat in Santorini, Greece. Credit: Mstyslav/Wikimedia Commons/CC BY-SA 3.0

October 4th marks World Animal Day, an international day of action for the rights and welfare of animals that is celebrated in Greece and all around the world.

The day is also the feast day of St. Francis of Assisi, the patron saint of animals in Western Christianity.

The issue of the rights of animals in Greece is serious, and it came to the forefront after a series of shocking and brutal crimes against animals occurred in Greece in 2020.

The Greek Parliament approved a new law on pet ownership in September, which PM Kyriakos Mitsotakis said will create rules so that no animal “will be abandoned, or abused.

“Greece is changing and is finally adopting a modern legal framework for the protection of pets,” Mitsotakis tweeted before the vote in Parliament.

Major provisions of new pet law in Greece

The new law stipulates that pet abuse will carry stricter fines and will now include acts such as abandonment, shooting, intentional injury and poisoning.

Other provisions include:

  • Records of people who have been sentenced for torturing animals will be entered into a database managed by the Athens prosecutor’s office and be cross-referenced with the Pet Registry so that they may not register as pet owners in the future.
  • A pet DNA analysis and storage bank is also being set up, so that if an animal is abandoned the owner can be easily located and be penalized accordingly.
  • The leading change brought along by the new bill is the new digital health book for all pets, which will include a full medical history and will be accessible by both owners and veterinarians.
  • Banning cat and dog sales at pet shops, together with a ban on mating advertorials: the fine for publishing a mating ad will be more than tripled when not referencing the pet’s unique ID microchip number and the new reproduction license.
  • The sale of pets will only be allowed by approved breeders and owners. Pet adoption fees will be forbidden, except for transportation and medical treatment costs.
  • New rules are introduced for breeding as well: owners will be licensed for one litter per pet, while prospective owners of offspring will have to be officially registered.
  • Neutering will become mandatory for all owners, with some medical exceptions. Approved licensed breeders will be fined 2,000 euros if they mate a single animal more than six times. Amateur (so-called ‘back yard’) breeders will also be subjected to several new restrictive rules.
  • Neutering should be done within six months of the pet’s acquisition if the animal is more than one year old. In case of acquisition of an animal less than one year old, neutering takes place within the first six months after the completion of the first year. This deadline may vary depending on the breed of the animal and other specific characteristics, after a thorough veterinarian opinion.
  • Neutering is not mandatory for animals for which a sample of their genetic material (DNA) has been sent to the Laboratory for Conservation and Analysis of Pet Material Genetic Material.
  • In case the animal owner does not sterilize his pet or does not send in a DNA sample, a fine of 1,000 euros will be imposed and the owner will be given a three-month period to sterilize or send a sample of the animal’s genetic material. In the event that this deadline also passes without action, the fine will be imposed again.
  • Finally, a new National Pet Registry will be introduced, where all pets, either owned or stray, will have to be registered, including pets put up for adoption. Animal welfare associations, vets, breeders and animal shelters will all have to register too.

In order to encourage owners to take better care of their pets, the bill introduces incentives by municipalities, such as a reduction in city taxes by up to 10 percent.

Scrutiny over treatment of donkeys in Santorini

Santorini is often referred to as a tourist paradise. However, for the island’s donkeys, that are considered to be an attraction, the case is different.

Having to carry tourists from cruise ships up to the town of Fira under the hot Greek sun of the summer months for countless hours every day, these donkeys are living a life far from paradise.

Many reports have come out to the public showing the levels of neglect, over-work and mistreatment that these animals have endured for years.

”Their ligaments can become stretched over time to the point they are crippled and their backs are gradually compressed into a saddle back and they cannot carry anything. They are resilient animals and just keep taking it over and over again until one morning they drop dead,” said Tim Wass, director of the Safe Haven for Donkeys in an interview with the British Daily Mail in 2018.

But it is not just donkeys.

World Animal Day brings awareness to animal rights in Greece

Stray dogs are part of an unbroken image not just of Athens, but of most Greek cities.

According to Greek animal charities, more than one million stray dogs and cats are living on Greek streets.

Most of them are friendly but the inhumane conditions under which they’re forced to live, especially during the hot summer days and cold winter nights, might make them aggressive, considering the lack of food and attacks most of them experience on a daily basis.

The financial crisis that savaged Greece for nearly a decade has made the situation even worse.

Countless Greek families left their pets on the streets as they couldn’t afford their care anymore. This, combined with the lack of education and funding by the Greek authorities has left thousands of animals without sterilization, resulting in an increasing number of dogs and cats living on the streets.

World Animal Day’s goal is to “increase awareness and education to create a world where animals are always recognized as sentient beings and full regard is always paid to their welfare,” and Greece’s pet law may be a first step toward that goal.

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