World Animal Day Reminds of the Serious Issues Greece’s Animals Face

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

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

The issue of the rights of animals in Greece is serious. Let’s take a look at the condition of animals on the popular island of Santorini as an example.

Donkeys carry tourists up steep cliff path in Santorini (file photo).

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 earlier this year.

But it is not just donkeys.

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

A recent example of the dangerous effects that this phenomenon of stray dogs, left to their own, starving and sometimes rabid, is the story of Celia Hollingworth, a British tourist who was recently attacked by a group of stray dogs in northern Greece.

The woman was found dead two days after the attack.

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.

As 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,” Greece needs urgently to revise some of its priorities regarding the issue of animals and their rights.