The Greek Island of Santorini has a Serious Stray Dog Problem

Santorini Animal Welfare Association (SAWA) Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/SantoriniAnimalWelfareOrganizationSawa?fref=ts

SAWA Website: http://www.sawasantorini.org/

SAWA YouTube Video (February 2013) with Christina Kaloudi, shelter manager (Every dog in this video was re-homed within a year and a half): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gdY5l8K9Muw

The Donkey Sanctuary – Welcome to Santorini YouTube (October 2015) Video with Christina Kaloudi: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kmeTTG3KZkA

Fundraising Links:

GoFundMe Link:  https://www.gofundme.com/hjambyus

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Here was the original plea for help on 7 November 2014 by the Santorini Animal Welfare Association (SAWA) shelter manager, Christina Kaloudi:

Our shelter is literally cut off from the rest of the island. For the last 4 years the president of the village of Karterados, where the shelter is located, has gone beyond all means to shut us down, constantly and openly threatening that he will poison the animals and break down the gates. All agricultural roads leading to the shelter were ploughed on his command leaving us only with a dry riverbed, 1 kilometer long, in a very bad state. Every time it rains in Santorini this "road" is instantly ruined leaving us with no access to the shelter but a steep walking path through some hills. As we have no electricity or running water, we need at least one water truck every week to fill up our water reserve. For years, we have been relying on the Municipality of Santorini to repair the road after every rainfall so we can get the food and water supplies. This time the president of Karterados has gone too far. He is not allowing the State to repair the road threatening them, the same Municipality he is a council to, that he will bring the police as they are breaking the law and "covering up" a riverbed not cleaning it. Apparently, only "selective" laws apply on this island. What about the rest of the river bed passing through the same village that has been already paved with asphalt? What about the 100 dogs and 20 donkeys that are waiting for food and water? Are you going to wait for their slow death, Mr. President, so the shelter does not bother you anymore? Does not any Greek Animal Welfare Law apply in this case?

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As volunteers to the shelter for the past two years from the United States, this was our (Robert and Nancy Salvatore) response:

Unfortunately, the day the water ran out is here. The president of Karterados' ongoing battle with SAWA (Santorini Animal Welfare Association) has led to the current situation leaving approximately 20 donkeys & mules and almost 100 dogs without food and water. After volunteering at this shelter for the past 2 years, we had a first-hand account of the unfolding events. Everyday when we went to the shelter we did not know what to expect. Everyday we feared that the animals would have been poisoned overnight. Everyday we were concerned that someone would have brought down the fences.

Let us bring some perspective to the current crisis. Santorini is considered one of the most popular Greek islands, if not the most popular at the current time. There are about 16,000 permanent residents on this island in addition to all the tourists. The village of Karterados is located about 2 kilometers from the main town of Fira. The shelter is another 2 kilometers east and downward from the main village and within the jurisdiction of Karterados. We have been told that the village has about 1,000 voting age people. Having lived in Karterados and among the residents, we can attest it is a close-knit village with a few large and extended families. The president of Karterados would not normally be considered an important position overall politically, but when you represent 1,000 close-knit people, you carry a big stick. The important position politically is the mayor of Santorini. We have met and attended a meeting with the mayor about the concerns of SAWA. He appeared to be very cordial and was receptive to SAWA's issues. But when one of your constituents is wielding a 1,000-vote big stick, we surmise that he has balanced himself on both sides of the fence.

Why is the president of Karterados so unreceptive to the plight of SAWA? We have never met the man and we have only heard SAWA's side of the story. However, having witnessed many sinister and damaging acts over a 2-year period, we feel we get a say in the matter. The problem goes back 4 or 5 years. SAWA was relocated to this part of the island in 2009. This is the only place on the island with a density of trees for the protection of animals, as Santorini is a desert island. The shelter started as a sanctuary for retiring and injured equines that transported humans up and down the caldera cliffs. We do not think the locals had a problem with the donkeys. Then, they started with 10 dogs. Please understand that this is an outside fenced shelter with no electricity or running water. There is a separate area for the equines and about 10 sectioned off areas for the different types of dogs. The shelter located outside the main populace of Karterados is among mostly farms. It is fair to say that there are more houses nearer the shelter today than when the shelter opened there in 2009. The shelter is located about a kilometer away from the beaches and the water, with a view of the Mediterranean. We guess it is fair to say that the land is getting more valuable. There is a concern of noise coming from the barking. However, after spending a few nights sleeping near the shelter, we lost more sleep from the sound of roosters than the sounds coming from SAWA. It appears to us that the locals near the shelter enlisted the president of Karterados to rid the village of SAWA. However, we have witnessed behavior that pretty much hits below the belt. It appears to be a game now and a win at all costs for the president of Karterados. For instance, one day we were walking to the shelter and we get a call from the shelter manager and asked if we saw four donkeys. We just happened to see them in a field in the distance. Someone brought down the fence of the equines so they would go into the adjoining fields to eat and damage the crops. This behavior happened quite frequently. Then, the president of Karterados would show up at the farms to remove the donkeys and became the savior and protector. We kid you not. There were a number of times the locals would throw rocks at the shelter manager and say things to her that just simply could not be repeated here. They never threw rocks at us, but they said things to us on occasion. We smiled and said, "Kalimera," because we did not know what they were saying.

There have been many discussions about relocating SAWA to another part of the island. However, nobody wants the "eyesore" in their backyard. The leading proposal is to locate them to the landfill or dumps. We witnessed first-hand the proposed location. Let us say that neither animal nor human worker could survive those living and working conditions. There is a 30-year build-up of trash that is seeping dangerous vapors. Santorini has a very serious stray dog problem, in spite of the wealth and prominent tourist destination. In 2012, 160 dogs were re-homed. In 2013, there were 260. This year, we will see approximately 350 dogs get re-homed. We cannot stress how much work and expense are required on all ends to relocate dogs off this island, especially in winter. However, there were about 70 dogs when we arrived in October 2012. There are about 100 in the shelter currently. We walked all over that island. There were some days we would log in about 11 miles (18 kilometers). There are hundreds of dogs, maybe a thousand, running around the island.

This is our plea. Residents of Santorini, consider spaying and neutering, not poisoning for animal control. Please do not let your pet roam free into traffic to be run over by reckless drivers or procreate freely. Please do not leave your pet on Santorini when you return to Athens after the season. Please do not discard your puppy, when they get bigger. Please do not drop newborn puppies over the fence at night thinking you are saving them, as that is a recipe for disaster. AND FINALLY, TO ALL THE RESIDENTS OF KARTERADOS, PLEASE TELL YOUR FAMILY MEMBER TO END THE GAME.

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Aftermath:

Since then, as a result of a meeting, the negotiated settlement was the riverbed road would be ploughed in order to deliver water and food to the animals in exchange for the removal of the dogs (not donkeys) to a temporary location until a permanent shelter location could be built. Logistically, how this is possible, given the level of personnel and money available is anyone's guess. Currently, the entire shelter remains in the original location.

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***UPDATE*** October 20, 2015 - As volunteers from the United States, we left the island of Santorini on September 29, 2014 after almost two years with SAWA. This petition was started December 5, 2014 in response to the intended closure on November 7, 2014 of the last remaining access road providing water and food to the animal shelter of 20 equines and 80 – 100 dogs. Since then, the shelter has somehow managed to survive, sometimes with packs of dogs hauling carts of water. However, today, SAWA faced another obstacle as a court case was scheduled to determine its fate. Word leaked that the local authorities were going to come to the shelter, allegedly using the letter of the law to shut it down and release approximately 80 dogs back onto the streets of Santorini (10 in each village). We have heard to open an animal shelter that meets all the criteria mandated by Greek law requires about 450,000 Euro and only one shelter in all of Greece meets the criteria. Eight members from Bark Busters from the United Kingdom, along with supporters from Germany, Scandanavia, Slovakia, Canada and locals were there to greet the authorities on Friday morning, October 9, 2015, and the authorities left leaving the shelter intact for now. It is surmised that the reason for this tactic before the court date is with the shelter closed and the dogs released back onto the streets that there wouldn't be anything to adjudicate. At this point, you may be thinking that you are reading fiction, but let us assure you that this is really going on. During the weekend of October 10 and 11, the animals had a little reprieve because, after all, it's the weekend. However, on the morning of October 12, we had a surprise and when the shelter manager and her volunteers showed up there was an outpouring of support from about 40 vocal locals. Local TV personnel did a segment and interviewed many present. Of course, our sister organizations in Germany, Denmark, Austria and Sweden have been scrambling to re-home dogs off the island. Over $3,000 US was raised in 8 days to transport 5 Pointers to the United Kingdom. At the time the authorities came to release the dogs back onto the streets, 38 dogs were reserved to leave awaiting flights and escorts. This is a critical period for the re-homing of SAWA dogs, because at the end of October, most of the transport flights cease until the beginning of May. Other than a few special flights, the only other way to transport dogs off the island is a long journey of boats, planes, etc.

The plea for help was sent out and YOU have responded. The SAWA Facebook reach on the week of October 12 exceeded 285,000. SAWA's Facebook Likes increased approximately 2,000. A typical posting use to get about 50 Likes. Now, postings generate hundreds of Likes. This petition received a little interest when it was posted exceeds 38,000 signatures. It was sent to the Mayor of Santorini when it hit 35,000, 36,000 and 37,000 signatures with a letter saying, Do the Right Thing. As a result of the onslaught of passion for the helpless animals of Santorini from all around the world, we surmise that today, the Mayor of Santorini did not appear for his court date. He supposedly is in Athens for an important meeting. The court hearing has been postponed to November 24. We need to keep fighting. All of you who have signed and forwarded this petition have played a role in protecting the animals from going back onto the streets and face an almost certain death from accidents, poisoning and shootings. SAWA has re-homed 260 dogs in 2013, 342 dogs in 2014 and will probably exceed that number in 2015 if we can get the chance to finish the year. This is in addition to the more than 20 equines under SAWA's care. This year represented a record year for volunteers. Join us in being part of the solution and have your voice heard. Please sign and get all your friends to sign and give a voice to all the abandoned animals of Santorini.  Rob & Nancy Salvatore

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Petition sent to the Mayor of Santorini on October 26, 2015:

Dear Mayor Anastasios-Nikolaos Zorzos:

Attached is a petition with over 40,000 signatures outlining in detail the Serious Stray Dog Problem on your Island and the ongoing battle between the President of Karterados and the Santorini Animal Welfare Association (SAWA). That is 40,000 and counting from all over the world that now have an awareness of this problem. Originally, you were receptive to our plight as you were balancing your alternatives, however, you currently appear to be in opposition to our fate as personnel came to the shelter on the morning of the 9th of October to shut it down and release the dogs back onto the streets of Santorini. Please allow us to say that approximately 80% of the dogs that live on the streets do not make it over the winter, due to starvation, disease, vehicle accidents, poisoning, etc. Also, 38 of the dogs in the shelter at the time the authorities came to release them back onto the streets were reserved for re-homing awaiting flights and escorts. SAWA had to protect itself and provide a voice for the defenseless animals by flying in volunteers from all over Europe to mount a defense to the forced closure. We had to make a decision to protect the reserved dogs by moving them to private locations all at a tremendous cost and effort. All this money and manpower spent on needless fighting instead of taking care of the animals. You have responded "Our Municipality each year covers all the necessary expenses required for the care of stray animals." Has things changed? Do you pay anything toward the salary of the shelter manager? What do you think would happen if once dogs entered a shelter there are no re-homing procedures in place? Since very few dogs get re-homed locally, over 300 dogs currently are re-homed off the island each year at an incredible cost. Organizations and people from all over Europe and the world SUBSIDIZE your animal welfare. Who paid for the cost and construction of the countless dog houses, two huge equine structures, fencing, additional medicines, etc, etc, etc.? Many volunteers and flight escorts come to your island and spend on airfare, your ferries, your hotels, and your restaurants. You claim that the "Municipality has gone to great lengths over the past two years to find the appropriate space" and you claim "we continue our efforts to find a suitable space so that we can continue to care for the stray animals of our island." This battle has been going on for about 5 years. How long does it take to find a place on a relatively small island? Moreover, how is releasing the stray animals back onto the streets continuing to care for them. You claim that you are "saddened by the vilification that is being inflicted on our island." For that, we are sorry, but unfortunately desperate times call for desperate measures. It is now up to you to change the reputation of the island. All eyes are on you. Whether you feel it is fair or not, you are in the position to lead your people either back to the dark ages of animal welfare or into the 21st century. Your actions are far-reaching as other Authorities and Mayors (e.g. Volos) all over Greece are looking at the fallout from this. The lives of countless dogs are in your hands.

Sincerely,

Robert and Nancy Salvatore

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*** Update October 29, 2015 ***

***SOS! HELP US BUY LAND TO SECURE SAWA'S FUTURE!***
We NEED to continue to help the animals of Santorini – and there is only one safe way. WE NEED TO BUY OUR OWN LAND! Land that the local authorities can't take away from us, land where we can host the 300+ dogs that need our help each year, land that can offer refuge to worn out, retired donkeys.

For those of you know don't know our current predicament, read our story here - http://on.fb.me/1OZZNby Without SAWA, so many an...imals will suffer needlessly – and the animals currently in our care will be returned to the streets!

SAWA and Tierschutzverein Santorini e.V. Germany have been working together for 20 years on Santorini to help the animals - and we want to go on with this important work. But without a shelter, there is no hope!

We are currently looking together for suitable land - but buying land and building a shelter costs a huge amount of money, so we are in desperate need of funding.

If you want to ensure we can continue to help the animals of Santorini, please donate Alpha Bank = IBAN: GR60 0140 6230 6230 0200 2012 044 BIC: CRBAGRAA and entitle your donation as 'A shelter for SAWA. Or via Pay Pal https://www.facebook.com/SantoriniAnimalWelfareOrganizati…/…

Please help us! Every EUR counts – together we are strong, and together we can secure the future of our shelter!

THANK YOU on behalf of all of our animals!

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*** Update November 24, 2015 ***

Every Dog Has Their Say!
Today your voices, defending the ones that cannot speak, have been heard in the court of Santorini.  Today I have been judged by the state of my own country for operating an illegal animal shelter (let me note that almost EVERY SINGLE SHELTER in Greece HAS NOT ACQUIRED AN OPERATION LICENSE).  By all means, I am Greek and I ask my Government and my co-patriots HOW do you expect any animal welfare to be conducted when your archaic laws render it IMPOSSIBLE for any Animal Protection Association or Municipality to obtain this license?  YOU are forcing us to break the law and become "criminals" in order to rescue the Greek strays over-flooding the entire country and offer them a safe haven until we can send them for adoption to a more "animal friendly" country!  I have been judged by the state for doing the work that the state itself was responsible of undertaking and simply does not bother to do so.  I never expected any recognition or support for offering 7 years of my life to "clean up" their problem, BUT on behalf of all of us in Greece serving this cause, just LET US BE!  If you cannot become a solution to this problem, then, simply stop adding to it!  Today I was found INNOCENT along with SAWA that I represent; the state and the Mayor of the island that were also accused like myself were found guilty for neglecting to provide an operation license. TODAY THE VOICES OF THE ANIMALS HAVE BEEN HEARD.  This is how over 60.000 SIGNATURES look like printed out https://www.facebook.com/SantoriniAnimalWelfareOrganizationSawa/photos/a.213603592080066.47405.213600882080337/890242947749457/?type=3&theater, and yes, I did present them to the judge on behalf of all of you!  THANK YOU for all your warm-hearted support!  We still have to evacuate the shelter and look for new land, BUT we are working on it and the animals will not be threatened until then. PLEASE keep the faith.  We still need every possible means of help to buy our own land and build a new shelter to secure a future for the animals of Santorini…it is the only way to go… With respect and hope, Christina Kaloudi
________________________________________________________
*** December 1, 2015 ***
Fundraising Update 14,568 Euro through Paypal and 7,035 Euro through GoFundMe.
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Santorini Animal Welfare Association (SAWA) Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/SantoriniAnimalWelfareOrganizationSawa?fref=ts

SAWA Website: http://www.sawasantorini.org/

SAWA YouTube Video (February 2013) with Christina Kaloudi, shelter manager (Every dog in this video was re-homed within a year and a half): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gdY5l8K9Muw

The Donkey Sanctuary – Welcome to Santorini YouTube (October 2015) Video with Christina Kaloudi: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kmeTTG3KZkA

Photo of 60.000 Signatures (50.000 from this Petition & 10.000 from another Petition):  https://www.facebook.com/SantoriniAnimalWelfareOrganizationSawa/photos/a.213603592080066.47405.213600882080337/890242947749457/?type=3&theater

Fundraising Links:

GoFundMe Link:  https://www.gofundme.com/hjambyus

Dear Mayor Anastasios-Nikolaos Zorzos:


Attached is a petition with over 40,000 signatures outlining in detail the Serious Stray Dog Problem on your Island and the ongoing battle between the President of Karterados and the Santorini Animal Welfare Association (SAWA). That is 40,000 and counting from all over the world that now have an awareness of this problem. Originally, you were receptive to our plight as you were balancing your alternatives, however, you currently appear to be in opposition to our fate as personnel came to the shelter on the morning of the 9th of October to shut it down and release the dogs back onto the streets of Santorini. Please allow us to say that approximately 80% of the dogs that live on the streets do not make it over the winter, due to starvation, disease, vehicle accidents, poisoning, etc. Also, 38 of the dogs in the shelter at the time the authorities came to release them back onto the streets were reserved for re-homing awaiting flights and escorts. SAWA had to protect itself and provide a voice for the defenseless animals by flying in volunteers from all over Europe to mount a defense to the forced closure. We had to make a decision to protect the reserved dogs by moving them to private locations all at a tremendous cost and effort. All this money and manpower spent on needless fighting instead of taking care of the animals. You have responded “Our Municipality each year covers all the necessary expenses required for the care of stray animals.” Has things changed? Do you pay anything toward the salary of the shelter manager? What do you think would happen if once dogs entered a shelter there are no re-homing procedures in place? Since very few dogs get re-homed locally, over 300 dogs currently are re-homed off the island each year at an incredible cost. Organizations and people from all over Europe and the world SUBSIDIZE your animal welfare. Who paid for the cost and construction of the countless dog houses, two huge equine structures, fencing, additional medicines, etc, etc, etc.? Many volunteers and flight escorts come to your island and spend on airfare, your ferries, your hotels, and your restaurants. You claim that the “Municipality has gone to great lengths over the past two years to find the appropriate space” and you claim “we continue our efforts to find a suitable space so that we can continue to care for the stray animals of our island.” This battle has been going on for about 5 years. How long does it take to find a place on a relatively small island? Moreover, how is releasing the stray animals back onto the streets continuing to care for them. You claim that you are “saddened by the vilification that is being inflicted on our island.” For that, we are sorry, but unfortunately desperate times call for desperate measures. It is now up to you to change the reputation of the island. All eyes are on you. Whether you feel it is fair or not, you are in the position to lead your people either back to the dark ages of animal welfare or into the 21st century. Your actions are far-reaching as other Authorities and Mayors (e.g. Volos) all over Greece are looking at the fallout from this. The lives of countless dogs are in your hands.


Sincerely,


Robert and Nancy Salvatore

Update #53 years ago
3 ½ years ago, the authorities of Karterados arrived at SAWA, the animal shelter, to release the dogs back onto the streets of Santorini. We stood at the gates & stopped it. We also appeared in court with over 60,000 signatures. Because of you, we were given the time to build a new shelter & move about 100 dogs & 20 equines. Please help us finish the job & consider donating, even as little as 5 Euro. https://www.facebook.com/SantoriniAnimalWelfareOrganizationSawa/app/190322544333196/
Update #45 years ago
SUCCESS! Each of Your Signatures created a Mountain of Hope. They were presented in court. See link of photo at end of petition. SAWA Innocent & Mayor Guilty. SAWA can remain in current location until new land is secured. All of Greece is looking at Santorini. You helped not only save the animals on Santorini, but thousands in Greece. If everyone who signed the petition only donated a few euro, we can build a safer & legal shelter. Please donate to https://www.gofundme.com/hjambyus Thank You
Update #36 years ago
Thank you for your signatures. You helped prevent the release of dogs back onto the streets. The sad reality is the animals in the current municipal location are in danger of someone tearing down the gates, poisoning and shooting. The only safe way to continue is to buy our own land. We hope initially to raise 80,000 EUR. Step by step, we will build a shelter they can’t take away. Even though this is Greece, Animals Know No Borders. Paypal/Credit Card donations: http://on.fb.me/1ScWigq THANK YOU
Update #26 years ago
Another Update on October 29, 2015 at the end of the petition on The Greek Island of Santorini has a Serious Stray Dog Problem and the Santorini Animal Welfare Association (SAWA).
Update #16 years ago
Please see Updates of October 20, 2015 and October 26, 2015 at the end of the petition with the Santorini Animal Welfare Association regarding The Greek Island of Santorini has a Serious Stray Dog Problem.
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