The president of the Paros Animal Welfare Society “PAWS,” Argiro Eleftheriadou, granted
an interview with our journal on the issue of abandoned animals on our island as well as other problems faced by animal welfare organizations in Paros.
Also, Mrs. Eleftheriadou spoke about setting up a model animal shelter in Marathi, as well as other subjects from the PAWS association. ·
The interview of Mrs Eleftheriadou. as follows:
Q: Mrs. Eleftheriadou, you are in the final stages of building a model shelter in Paros for stray pets. Tell us, how did this "journey" begin?
A: The "journey" began about 4 years ago, when, with the assistance of the Municipality, we began the search for a place suitable for the construction of a permanent and modern shelter for stray pets in Paros. It became necessary to find an alternative for the site of the current animal shelter because it is private and the owner asked to take it back. All our efforts, up to that point, proved fruitless, since all the sites that were suggested to us were inappropriate (in settlements, on the shore, quarries, landfills, biological cleaning, etc.) or even, they did not meet the requirements necessary by law for the creation of an animal shelter (Sufficient space, non-forest, no archaeological findings etc.). In Spring 2018, a Parian, owning a 9.6 acre farm in Marathi (designated as a farm area), offered us the purchase of his property at a very attractive price. So, after collecting the required amount of donations and receiving the Forest Service Certification license, we proceeded to purchase the property in the name of the PAWS Association. Immediately afterwards, with the help of donors and volunteers, all necessary licenses were issued: Archeology, Town Planning and last July, the Permit to Establish the Shelter by the South Aegean Region.
Here, I would like to mention and publicly thank Ms. FotiniMehtaris, Head of the Cyclades Veterinary Directorate and Mr. Nikos Tsigonias, Veterinarian and Head of the Veterinary Department of Paros, for their great support and assistance throughout the time of all these procedures to legalize our shelter. On this occasion, I would also like to refer to the excellent cooperation we have had so far with Mr. Tsigonias in the process of managing stray pets in Paros.
Q: The project sounds very difficult and the money spent is a lot. How has your Association managed it? Did you have any help?
A: If we had help, the shelter would already be working! Beyond the cost of the land, construction costs are estimated to reach 135,000 euros. This is an excessive amount considering the capabilities of our Association which, as a non-profit, operates with donations and sponsorships. At the same time, our annual cost of managing the Stray Animals Program on the island amounts to approximately 80-90,000 euros.
To date, we have managed, with donations and sponsorships (in cash and in trade), to invest approximately € 71,000, with € 64,000 remaining until the project will be completed. Of this amount, we have already secured approximately €38,000 (in donations and sponsorships), with the result that we are still missing €26,000 before the project can be completed. Consider that just for the electricity supply of the shelter, DEDDIE is asking us to pay in cash, in advance (!) approximately 12,000 euros!
What is encouraging for us is that, we have both large institutional donors and private donors, who fully trust and believe in this important work being done on our island and the result is that we have already financially covered almost 80% of the project! We believe that we will soon find the remaining amount that comes up to approximately 26,000 euros (out of which, as I have mentioned,12,000 euros, approximately, go for the DEDDIE).
Q: Paros’ animal associations essentially substitute for the obligation of the Municipal Authority to care for strays, as required by law. What help do you get from the municipality over the years?
A: As it is already known, the Municipality approves € 20,000 annually (including 24% VAT) from the Municipal Sterilization and Medical Services Program for strays on the island. This amount is, of course, equally distributed among the two veterinarians who manage the program and they work with both animal welfare organizations on the island (PAWS & FEP). What is needed, however, is the essential contribution of the municipal services to the management of the stray animal program on the island, as the legislation itself states. As with other Municipalities in the country, a special service should have already been set up in the Municipality that receives requests from citizens for stray, battered, abandoned animals and and those in need of assistance. There should be a customized municipal car with trained people and the appropriate equipment for collecting strays as well as a shelter for housing the animals. All these duties and obligations of the Municipality have been carried out for years by the few VOLUNTEERS of the animal welfare organizations of the island who, as you rightly said, substitute the Municipality for its obligations and responsibilities in this area.
Also, the municipality must constantly raise awareness and inform citizens about their proper behavior towards animals. It is a matter of education and culture and should be a priority in a rising tourist destination like Paros!
Q: Lately, there has been a lot of talk about animal abuse, poisoning of animals in Lefkes, as well as we have the traditional restriction of movement by the hobbling of farm animals. What is your position on this very serious matter?
A: Indeed, this is a very serious matter! And unfortunately it is often repeated despite formal and informal warnings to residents. As I mentioned before, it's a matter of education! The island's animal welfare associations have made and continue to make every effort to inform the public about ethical treatment of animals, and have often announced through the media the respective penalties and fines imposed by the Law.
As for poisons, the reasonable question to ask is WHY? WHAT ARE THE REASONS THAT ANIMALS HAVE TO PAY WITH THEIR LIVES JUST BECAUSE THEY WERE BORN? And here we come to the issue of neutering. I, and many of my colleagues, are against neutering, except under one condition: there is someone who will take care of the newborns and not throw them into garbage cans, into the sea, into yards, ditches, fields and anywhere else. Or worse, kill them when they get older! The animals that breed are not to blame. This is their nature. It is us to blame, those who do not care to sterilize them, for not limiting the proliferation of strays on the island. In fact, with regard to costs, both with the Municipal Program and with other running programs, there is always the possibility of free neutering. But most people refuse to sterilize their animals and prefer, after babies are born, to throw the "ball" to others, abandoning them here and / or even killing them! I'm sorry, but this is a crime, no matter how you look at it. As for the myth that is circulating, telling that neutering cats and dogs will eliminate the species (!), This is just an illusion. Because despite all the sterilization over the years, the strays in Paros are constantly increasing, causing many areas of the island to suffer: such as Lefkes, where they throw poison and kill them, Naoussa, Kostos, Santa Maria, Aliki and others. It is worth pointing out that this Summer again, we were overwhelmed with abandoned puppies and cats. The space we have available at our shelter is exhausted and even many of the volunteers foster animals in their homes. We have pointed it out many times, the situation with strays in Paros has reached its limit. But unfortunately, no one deals with it since all the heavy lifting is done by just a few volunteers.
As for hobbling of farm animals, which has been virtually abolished in most parts of the country, here in Paros but also in the Cyclades in general, it still exists. Many consider it "traditional farming". But the animals themselves who are suffering to find their own food in the hot sun are experiencing never ending torture. Another issue that the farmers with animals have to take care of is the shade! Every day we see farm animals neglected in the fields, huddled next to each other, wherever they find a little shade. What has delighted me recently is the news that special low voltage power cables have been installed, in some parts of Paros, to prevent the animals from leaving their grazing area. Additionally, traditional shepherds labor in several areas to lead their animals to graze under surveillance, rather than just "parking" them in a pasture. I believe it is a matter of time for these good examples to be followed by other farmers of animals, so that hobbling is eliminated in Paros soon.
Q: Let us return, Mrs. Eleftheriadou, to the subject of the new shelter. Do you think you will be able to move the animals, this Winter, from the temporary shelter in Tripiti to your new location?
A: This is our goal. We are desperately trying to secure the €26,000 we are missing so that we can complete and operate our new shelter before the coming winter.
Q: What will be the potential of the new shelter for hosting animals and what will be the fate of these animals once you collect them?
A: The new shelter will have 32 individual dog lodges, including 4 recuperation rooms. There will also be a residence for the person in charge of the shelter, as well as an office / reception area and storage space. In individual dog areas, where one or more dogs can be accommodated depending on their age, sex and size (eg puppies), we will also have dog houses with blankets / mattresses so that the dogs will be even more protected in Winter. There will be illumination and a water supply for the necessary daily washing of the areas (with pressure), while there will be a radiator in the recovery rooms and a table for medical examinations. We will also build a wooden structure with a suitable interior design to host kittens in need of medical care.
As is well known, our Association ensures that we find good families to adopt our animals, both in Greece and abroad. It is worth noting that about 200 stray animals "leave" every year from the streets and squares of Paros, with good homes to care for them and love them. Regarding how our animals live, in Tripiti, until they are adopted, I would like to invite anyone who wants to visit us to see, up close, the excellent conditions in our temporary accommodation. Also, what we've been able to do, that they rarely do in other shelters, is have our dogs walked every day. At the same time, we feed 400 cats in about 20 cat-neighborhoods of the island, so they won’t go hungry (mainly in the Winter) or disturb the citizens or bother the dining areas on the island.
Q: After the construction of the shelter is completed you will have to bear the operating costs. Will there be any cooperation to help with either another association or the Municipality?
A: We have the operational cost today or, to put it correctly, we have had the daily operational costs during the last 10-12 years of hosting stray animals. We believe we will have no problem with this, as we have so many friends and members who trust and support us. As for the second part of your question, as you know, our first concern and our utmost priority is the welfare of the animals we host. Consequently, any future cooperation that might be sought will be examined and decided in this light.
Q: And one last and perhaps difficult question: What resources do you still need to finish before Winter?
A: As I said before, we still need about 26,000 euros to finish the shelter as soon as possible, before the coming Winter. We want to believe that people will help us, when everything is for the good of Paros and will benefit the whole island and its inhabitants. I do not know if you have noticed, all dog buildings, the shelter's residence and the office are made of stone. Special thermal insulation ceilings are installed these days, and all our premises and facilities will meet the necessary safety and hygiene requirements. We want our new modern shelter in Marathi, to meet European standards, to become a model for all of Greece! We believe we will succeed.
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PAROS ANIMAL PROTECTION ASSOCIATION