World Animal Day - a special opportunity for everyone who cares about animals
Stricter penalties for animal abuse and abandonment in Greece
I am a Campaign Manager with UK animal welfare charity, Naturewatch Foundation, where I train the Patrol Police and other organisations on how to successfully investigate animal abuse. Previously, I worked with the Pan-Hellenic Police Welfare Federation in Greece on a similar piece of work.
I first presented in Athens to a Senior Police Commanders Conference in April 2015 to explain why animal crime and other crimes were interconnected.
That led to many meetings around Greece with police officers, animal groups and the National Veterinary College in Thessaloniki.
In November 2015, we trained 200 police officers from around the islands and then launched a programme where officers would come to the police training school to learn about animal abuse, and in particular the Cycle of Abuse where children become involved in animal abuse and then become human abusers.
From this, one officer from Crete wrote a guide to handling animal cases.
A campaign was launched to change attitudes to Greece. Those that have been fortunate enough to holiday there will know that amongst the history, beauty and culture often sits an underlying tendency to neglect animal welfare.
New laws were needed, and the Pan-Hellenic group had many Governmental meetings to find the right politician to open the door for this.
A breakthrough in July 2020 saw the Hellenic Police Organised Crime teams ‘take down’ a gang terrorising the port of Piraeus that has been the Port of Athens since the 5th Century BC.
They had been causing explosions to enforce their protection racket. This made national headlines across Greek media and yes, as we had briefed them, the gang were heavily involved in dog fighting. Guns, cash and fighting dogs were recovered from the raids.
As a result of the hard campaigning work, in 2020, Greece took the European lead on maximum jail sentences for animal abuse making it a 10 YEAR term for felony abuse (e.g. poisonings).
Many thanks to Makis Voridis, a Member of Parliament for New Democracy for making this happen.
Even better news came recently for the animals of Greece as the Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis passed a new law and stated, “Greece is changing and is finally adopting a modern legal framework for the protection of pets.”
This new law includes the tougher jail sentences and fines. It also includes:
- A database for those sentenced for torturing animals to be referenced against a newly developed pet registry scheme that ensures abusers can’t own animals. This pet registry will cover all animals, owned and stray.
- A pet DNA database to link owners to their animals to help with ownership evidence.
- A digital health book that includes all medical history of a pet.
- Banning the sale of cats and dogs from pet shops – now only allowed by approved breeders. This section includes new rules on breeding, owners can obtain a licence for one breeding per pet. Registered breeders will face a €2000 fine if they breed an animal more than 6 times. ‘Back yard’ breeders will also face tough new laws.
- Neutering will be mandatory, although subject to some exemptions. Rescues cannot charge a fee for rescuing animals, only cover their costs.
It has taken a few years to get to this point, but I feel we are starting to see some light for animals in Greece.
Perhaps some of these new pieces of legislation should now be considered elsewhere?
It certainly has been a long journey since I stood in front of a delegation in a conference room overlooking the Acropolis and explained why animals matter and how their abuse and exploitation was linked to other crime.
Who knows what finally made the difference, but I have a suspicion that Peanut and Calypso may have had some influence?
Who are Peanut and Calypso?
Peanut is the adopted stray dog of the Prime Minister and Calypso the adopted kitten of the President. Animals can be very persuasive!
Guest article by Mark Randell, Campaign Manager, Naturewatch Foundation
- October 1, 2021