Tuesday, 21 January 2014

Dangers of Crete (3) ...with your dog

Stray dogs are a sadly familiar sight in Greece. It's something that shocks many first time visitors. You see them curled up in shop doorways, playing with the owned dogs in the parks, sleeping on traffic islands or by the side of the road, wandering the high streets, even joining protests in Athens (like the famous dog Loukanikos 'Sausage' http://ti.me/1eYJ1Gd)!
Loukanikos the protesting stray
The strays I've seen in Greece are almost always very docile, quite afraid of people, quiet and just trying to survive. And most of the people I know in Greece are very good about putting out food and water for the strays in their neighbourhoods, taking strays to animal welfare centres to be looked after, and adopting strays.
Stray at Heraklion Airport
However,  there has recently been an increase in the number of dogs abandoned by owners affected by the economic crisis and no longer able to support their dogs.

The results of this were all too clear when I visited Crete last summer after a few months away. I felt really nervous walking with my dog in some areas of Heraklion, due to the newly formed packs of stray dogs. I had seen small packs of strays in the past, for example up on the Venetian walls of the city in the early mornings, but I hadn't seen packs like this before. They were also more territorial and aggressive.

One such pack had made the area around the graveyard at Agios Constantinos (Heraklion) their home. One evening they were approaching us and barking so ferociously that we turned back, almost running, and returned home via a much longer route. My friend had a similar experience in this area when passing through with his dog.

I don't know what these dogs would do if we continued through their territory, probably nothing, but it is quite a scary sight. 

None of this is new, but I think the rapid increase in the numbers of abandoned dogs can be alarming when you are out and about with your dog.

  • Quite obviously, if you have an encounter with a pack of stray dogs in one area, avoid passing through the same area again, dogs are territorial and usually have a 'base' somewhere
  • Try to determine the danger before getting too close - clear signs such as barking, growling, and aggressive posture should make you think twice about passing a group of strays with your pampered pooch
  • Don't run away, this might provoke a chase, just walk quickly and calmly in the opposite direction
  • Your dog will probably be reading your feelings about the situation, so try to keep calm and be reassuring. Try to prevent them from barking and showing aggression 

If you want to report finding a stray animal, try getting in touch with one of the animal welfare organisations listed below:
I may have missed some organisations (my apologies, you are all doing fantastic work!), but you should be able to find a shelter or group in each area of Crete from the websites listed above.

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