ANIMAL LOVERS across Europe united in protest against the Greek Government’s unjustified – and illegal - seizure of 58 rescued dogs from Crete, at the port of Piräus near Athens. The dogs, the property of the animal charity Noah’s Ark Crete (Arche Noah Kreta) were illegally detained on the morning of February 27th and transported to an unknown location, by opponents of animal welfare organisations.
Noah’s Ark co-ordinator Stefan Grothus reacted with outrage at the seizure. He told OUR DOGS: "Our organisation's vehicle, called "Pyromane" was stopped on the arrival of the ferry in Piräus by a Greek official, Mrs. Karagkouni, who has opposed our work on spurious grounds in the past, with the assistance of the Port Police, and in the presence of the TV station Alpha. It was prevented from continuing its journey."
Mrs. Karagkouni had obtained a provisional injunction from the public prosecutor for a seizure of the animals, which were supposed to leave for Germany. According to Mr Grothus, she waylaid the vehicle, accompanied by the police and press, and grabbed all accompanying papers from the drivers, saying she was "from the police". She returned the dogs’ certificates of vaccination; the other papers disappeared.
Mr Gothus continues: "At this point, our drivers were still in good spirits, thinking they could continue their journey after everything had been thoroughly checked. However, things came to a head when it was claimed that the microchips carried by the dogs were German, and that this was illegal. In the end, even a visit to the toilet could only be made in the presence of the police.
‘The 58 unwanted dogs from Crete were either handed over to us during daytime by their owners in our animal home in Nerokouro, or were secretly tied up outside there during the night. They were stranded in Athens and are not allowed to continue their journey, although they are the property of our charity on Crete, until they are handed over to their future owners in Germany
‘There were no legal grounds for stopping our vehicle:
‘1. In Athens, the animals have not even left Greek territory.
‘2. The use of German microchips is not illegal. According to Greek law a dog, which has been looked after for 7 days by a charity or a private person, becomes their property.
‘3. The majority of the animals had already found new owners in Germany.
‘4. Some of the animals were brought to the animal home in Chania by the municipality of Heraklion, because they were seriously injured. The action from the opponents to the animal charity is thus also directed against their own fellow countrymen, i.e. the Greek authorities on Crete!
‘5. There only existed a spoken resolution from the public prosecutor, no resolution in writing was shown.
‘6. According to Greek law, the seizure could only have been ordered by an official veterinary surgeon: none was present.
‘7. Mrs. Karagkouni confiscated the papers of the drivers herself. This not legal, since she is not a police officer, and has no such authority.
‘8. All the animals in this transport have the correct vaccinations and are microchipped.
‘All the animals, amongst them many puppies which have been brought up by private supporters of our charity in their own homes, would have a secure and good home to go to in Germany. Their fate in Athens is uncertain. We were told they would be taken to a big Greek animal pound.’
The outrage continued when the Greek authorities attempted to charge the charity 580 euros a day for the housing of the dogs, but refused to allow them to see the dogs. The story was highlighted on Noah’s Ark website and the case was taken up by the world’s media and animal lovers worldwide.
The case was challenged in the Greek court and, after the dogs had been incarcerated for nearly a month, a judge has ruled that the dogs belong to the charity and that the owner of the kennel did not have any legal standing to keep the dogs in his possession. The charity were allowed to collect the dogs two days later, when they continued their journey to their new, better lives outside of Crete.
Mr Gothus continues: "Nevertheless the fight goes on – one newspaper has started a ‘witch hunt’. Animal Rescue organisations and friends have received threatening phone calls. We also do not know what other shady tricks the Animal Rescue opponents may have up their sleeves.
However, the dogs are safe now, that’s the main thing, and we are so grateful for all the help and support we received from around the world. The Greeks do not like to be shown that they care little for animal welfare – but we shall continue to rescue animals from Greece whenever and wherever we can."
OUR DOGS columnist Lynda Ward, who herself rescued a stray dog from Crete that she named Fliss, raised the story with media contacts. ‘I became aware and involved since my holiday in Crete last October when I found Fliss, a typical Crete ‘barrel dog’ who was terribly malnourished and suckling two puppies. Thanks to the charity run by English and German expats, Friends of Animals Rethymno – and with help form Noah’s Ark’s own vets, who all work together very closely on Crete, Fliss and the pups are in lovely new homes in Germany. OUR DOGS readers followed their story very closely and many kindly sent donations.
‘I think that boycotting Greece and Greek holidays is the best way to make the Greek Government clean up their act. Their mentality towards animals is totally alien to ours and the only way to make them change is if their pockets are affected.’