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Takis Shelter: The Greek Man Who Devotes His Life to Stray Animals

Takis Shelter
Takis Proestakis with one of the stray dogs he saved on Crete. Credit: Takis Shelter/Facebook

Takis Proestakis, a former Greek businessman in the town of Ierapetra, Crete, gave up his comfortable life to devote himself to caring for abandoned dogs and cats at his shelter.

April 4th is World Stray Animals Day, a day dedicated to increased awareness of stray animals worldwide and their problems. In Greece the problem is acute. A recent study conducted by the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki found that the number of stray dogs and cats exceeds 3 million and is heading to 4 million in the coming years.

The former owner of a popular nightclub in the town has created and maintains a shelter for stray animals, thanks to donations that have come in from across the world.

Set up almost a decade ago, and with the sole purpose of rescuing the stray, abandoned animals of Crete, Takis Shelter currently cares for over 470 dogs and cats.

His devotion to the strays has made news across the world. In 2023 Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis who has adopted a stray dog, named Peanut, since he moved to office, visited the shelter and expressed his gratitude for the work Proestakis is doing: “Many congratulations to Takis Proestakis for what he does for stray animals. Animal protection will always be high on our agenda,” he said.

The rescued dogs and cats have up to 33,000 square meters of private, enclosed olive groves to run around in.

With very few people willing to help, there is still an overwhelming number of stray cats and dogs in the south of Crete that need rescuing. In the past, dogs have been left tied up, often with their puppies in a box, outside of the shelter.

Over 400 of the shelter’s cats and dogs have been neutered with only a remaining few left, due to their age or health.

This shelter receives no help from the authorities and relies solely on donations.

Since 2014, Takis Shelter has re-homed over 1000 animals. Yet, there are hundreds of dogs and cats still looking for their Forever Homes, so please visit the Adoption page to find your best friend.

Speaking to the Greek Reporter recently, Proestakis spoke about the life-changing experience he had when he took a stroll near a garbage dump outside the town.

“I saw a dog with broken legs and the bone was out of the leg… I was horrified. I was going back every day to help it recover. One dog became two, and then three, until dozens gathered near the dump. Many were in desperate need of help,” Proestakis said.

“I was really moved by their plight. I cannot start to describe the unconditional love they showed towards me. This changed by whole perspective in life. I abandoned the nightlife for the strays,” he added.

“I was feeding them and trying to treat their injuries on site. Local residents however, were not happy. They threatened to kill the dogs, claiming they were damaging their properties.

“I asked them to give me a 30-day leeway. I bought a plot of land near the rubbish dump and moved all the animals there. It was perfect. It had fresh water and an olive grove,” Proestakis added proudly.

Takis Shelter on Crete has grown

Proestakis said that saving the animals would not have been possible without the generous donations he has received from all over the world.

“Hundreds come over to visit the shelter during the summer. Many Europeans, in particular from Finland and Germany, come over to Crete to adopt dogs and cats.”

“I need to meet with prospective owners face-to-face before I hand over the animals for adoption. I want to make sure that they find a loving home,” Proestakis stressed.

“My dogs who are in the shelter, they have a good life, but a home is a home,” he emphasizes. “Every dog needs a home.”

The shelter has now become famous all around the world. A video made during a rescue operation has had more than 115 million views.

Proestakis says that the problem of stray animals is particularly acute. He noted, however, that this is not a new phenomenon. People have always abandoned pets.

Nowadays, there is more publicity about animal rights and the plight of stray dogs. “Tougher laws on animal abuse have helped highlight the problem,” the rescuer says.

“The new generation is also more sensitive to animals and in fifteen to twenty years many things will be different. I think they will be better for the animals.”

He lamented the lack of assistance from the local authorities for his shelter, but he is full of praise for the police which help to protect the shelter and the animals.

Every small donation is vital for the operation of Proestakis’ shelter. You can help by donating here.

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