Today’s blog entry comes from Zoe Katsulos of inside/out, an organization that promotes “humanitourism” – travel that combines tourism with humanitarian/animal welfare projects. Read on for Zoe’s inspiring account of her trip to Greece to help stray dogs.
On our first day in Greece, the inside/out team visited the Katafigio Adespoton Zoon (KAZ) shelter for stray animals in Athens. KAZ is one of the few animal shelters in Greece where these facilities are virtually non-existent due to a lack of funds to support the building and operational costs.
KAZ was originally designed as a transition facility – a temporary stop to treat sick and injured animals. The shelter includes a small surgical facility, recovery area and kennels. KAZ has been forced to expand their kennels in order to accommodate the increasing number of dogs who are routinely abandoned or dropped off at the shelter. This has made it difficult for KAZ to continue to operate with the limited funding they receive (none of which is from the Greek government). To help ease the burden, the inside/out team brought donations of veterinary supplies, which included medications, syringes, needles, surgical supplies and other items.
On the second day of our Greece trip, we headed to Ionnina for the rest of our animal welfare work. We had brought some veterinary supplies for the local animal welfare groups there as well. The inside/out team helped build feeding stations that will be used to help feed the local stray dog population. We had originally planned to build one feeding station each for the two feeding locations, but our group was so ambitious and enthusiastic that we built another two!
We also visited the university in Ionnina to distribute educational materials. These young students are a good target population because they are educated and more open to changing their perceptions of animal welfare. It was easy to see why the university’s administrators might perceive stray dogs as a problem/menace. There are large packs of dogs who the locals feed, and many of these dogs bark and chase cars leaving the parking lot. While students don't seem to mind them, the university systematically poisons these dogs to reduce the population. Part of the mission of the inside/out team was to educate the university officials about the cruelty of poisoning and to empower students to stand up against cruelty and to change the minds and behaviors of the local people. This is similar to the stray animal work carried out by the World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA) in countries all over the globe where WSPA educates local authorities on the importance of animal birth control programs and offers free spay/neuter clinics.
The inside/out team will be returning to Greece in May 2010 to help KAZ with shelter improvements, and during that trip we will also be focusing our educational efforts in Ionnina.