This photo montage from Getty Images illustrates the overall portrait of stray dogs in the centre of Athens on January 27, 2015 in Athens, Greece.
Stray dogs are a problem in Athens. The sheer numbers of individual dogs and packs make forces locals and tourists to contend with them. For the most part the dogs seem fairly acclimated to co-inhabiting public space with people. They aren’t known to chase or attack humans and have even learned to navigate the busy streets.
Mostly the dogs are seen as an image problem. There is this big modern city with all of these dogs wandering around, lounging in the shade, solo and in packs. Some of the dogs have owners but most appear to be discards or strays. Most are monitored and tagged by the local authorities receiving vaccinations and veterinary attention when needed. The streets – which the dogs have learnt to navigate around, negotiating busy road junctions and pedestrian crossings – also provide in the main, the food, water and shelter that comes from charity organizations and individuals. The reasons for their large numbers are not surprising and in fact are reasons communities all over the globe with large stray populations grapple with.
Greek-American Tom Mazarakis explained on his website:
“I have been living in Greece for the last 33 years and am well acquainted with the recent history of the dog situation in Athens and the rest of Greece. As in most civilized countries, in Greece too, every municipality had a “dog pound” and a “dog catcher”. And, as in most cities throughout the world, many domesticated dogs in Greece would one way or another gain their “freedom” from their owners. Either they would run away on their own, or they would be “let go” by irresponsible owners. Whatever the case may have been, these stray dogs often would breed and have puppies and multiply accordingly. The dog catchers in Greece used to step in and round up as many strays as they could. The strays were held in the local municipal dog pounds for a period of no more than 90 days, and if no one claimed the dogs, they were typically then put to sleep. This system kept the stray dog population down to a manageable level up until about 10 years ago. At about that time, a local animal rights activist group found out about a particular dog pound that kept their dogs in miserable and inhumane conditions. They visited the pound and filmed the scene. Then they took their evidence and presented it to the local District Attorney who in turn issued a warrant for the responsible mayor’s arrest. That mayor was charged with the crime of “maltreatment of animals” which is a very serious offense in Greek law. He was convicted and sentenced to several months in prison along with a stiff monetary fine. As a result, almost every municipality in Greece dissolved their dog pounds and fired their dog catchers. As you can understand, this paved the way for the stray dogs to multiply without restriction, and today they have become a serious problem. Many people, and especially children, have been attacked and mauled by gangs of wild dogs. But, no one takes responsibility. The local Humane Society has been making every effort it can to feed and take care of as many stray dogs as they can handle, but their numbers keep growing. They try to neuter as many of the dogs as they can, but they just can’t seem to put even a small dent into the problem.“
(from www.greecetravel.com/mazarakis )
The dogs of Athens highlight what can happen when stray populations of dogs and cats go unchecked. At least the dogs of Athens for the most part are tolerable of the human population and I believe that’s because of the amicable approach the humans exercise toward them.
The dogs, people, and the city aren’t going anywhere so all things considered it’s good that there exist a level of respect between the humans and man’s best friend.