Monday, 11 March 2013

Taking the law into their own hands

By Anna Stamatiou

The economic crisis is having far-reaching consequences at all levels of Greek society.  In the field of animal welfare it is clear that less weight is being given to all kinds of issues.  It has almost become politically incorrect to demand of the police that they should spend increasingly scarce resources to prosecute animal abusers, check on conditions for animals in transit, attend a report of a permanently tethered dog… or seek to identify and bring to justice a neighbourhood poisoner.

English: It's only a matter of time until we find you
 Ordinary, caring citizens as well as committed welfare activists have become enraged by the state’s failures, and this has led to increasing incidents of direct action, or vigilantism.  Graffiti have been appearing at the entrances to buildings where poisoners are thought to live.  These scrawled messages can be as nasty and threatening as those that the UK saw in 2000 when the News of the World “named and shamed” individuals thought to be guilty of child abuse, and baying mobs gathered outside the houses of sometimes innocent people in the city of Portsmouth. 

 This trend means that normally law-abiding people are being driven to behave in illegal ways (making threats and defacing property) and that the potentially innocent may be wrongly accused and persecuted.  It must be hell for the residents of the affected apartment blocks. 
Why do people go out and poison strays in the first place?  Online welfare sites in Greece are full of purple language fulminating against the “perverts” and “psychos” that carry out indiscriminate poisoning.   I have never seen any attempt at a balanced assessment of motivations other than these, and until there is one the root causes of such illegal and barbaric acts will never be successfully addressed.  Why, can’t the welfare community sensibly discuss the problems that both strays and owned cats and dogs can cause?  What about the poo-covered pavements?  The endless all night barking of confined dogs?  Attacks by packs or bad-tempered individual dogs on both pets and people?  The strewing of stinky detritus all over the street when rubbish bags are torn open by scavenging animals?  The fear of communicable disease that is only strengthened by the sight of unkempt, unhealthy-looking animals?

English: Murderer of animals - we have found you
Greece needs to deal with the problem of its strays in a more honest and focussed way… numbers need to be managed, and dangerous dogs should be taken off the street permanently.  Neutering helps with this but it isn’t a complete solution.  In an ideal world there would be no strays at all on the streets.  Tolerating even low numbers of them communicates the wrong message:  “It is okay for cats and dogs that no one takes responsibility for to be here”.  Actually, no, it’s not.  All cats and dogs should be owned and taken responsibility for, they should be properly cared for in sickness and in health for the whole of their lives, and prevented from causing nuisance and from producing unwanted litters of kittens and pups.  Until Greek society “gets it” incidents of mass poisonings look likely to continue.  

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