Londoners help vets tackle Greece’s stray dog crisis

Money raised by Londoners has paid for a group from the London Vet Clinic in Marylebone to help tackle Greece’s stray dog problem.

Since the beginning of the financial crisis about one million dogs have been abandoned in Greece by owners who are unable to afford to keep their pets.

Telegraph/BBC –Down a side road off the central square of the small sleepy town of Lechena in the south-western corner of Greece, Panagiota Tsagkou runs a veterinary clinic. Like all businesses in Greece, hers has been affected by the debt crisis that has brought the country to its knees. She just about manages to get by financially, but on one front she struggles to cope: the number of stray and abandoned dogs in and around Lechena has soared over the past few years.

This is a tightly knit community, where everyone seems to know everyone – and they all know that Panagiota (known as Giota) will take in strays. Many dogs arrive at her clinic having been poisoned or worse – found shot in the head.

Giota treats these dogs for free, sterilising them to prevent them from breeding. But she has reached breaking point. Demand is too high and the scant resources generated by her private practice won’t stretch that far. The government certainly hasn’t paid her for any of the work she has carried out for the community.

So when the UK vets offered to help, she jumped at the chance. For seven days, a team of four vets and nurses led by veterinary surgeon Dr Hugo Richardson of the London Vet Clinic (LVC) in Marylebone, has been spaying and neutering dogs at Giota’s practice, free of charge. The work was only made possible by generous donations from clients at LVC.

Animal welfare is, understandably, far down the priority list for most Greeks, many of whom struggle to feed their own children, let alone their pets. It’s not exactly top of the agenda for the state, either, when hospitals lack basic supplies and police forces don’t have the funds to even fill up their cars.

But a surging stray dog population does present risks to humans, says Dr Richardson, and early intervention is crucial – and more cost-effective.

“One of the biggest threats is diseases which spread from animals to people. Rabies would be a massive human health issue if it got into the stray dog population. Parasites such as Leishmaniasis, which most of the dogs here carry, pose risks to humans, too.”