Anna Shares Spaghetti - A Change for the Better!

Anna and her family visit Amorgos every summer to take a break from their busy lives in the city of Athens. Anna’s mom also believes spending time in Amorgos is a wonderful chance for the children to experience life closer to nature. But in the past, the cats of Amorgos looked so sickly that Anna’s mother would not let her children near them for fear of disease. Now, after three years of AZI’s work in Amorgos, the cats are noticeably healthier. And with that knowledge, Anna’s mom is happy to let little Anna play, feed, touch and hug the cats near their summer home. Anna is pleased to have the opportunity to play with her furry four-legged friends!

Last year, when she was only 1 1/2 years old, Anna shared her bowl of spaghetti with a couple of cats from AZI’s program. This summer, see how much Anna has grown and the cats are happier and healthier too!

Updates on Dogs

August 2009 - Though much fewer in number than cats, dogs do not lead a healthier or happier life in Amorgos. Several dogs are kept tethered to a tree or post, completely isolated in very remote areas of the island, subject to mudslides, with no food, water or shelter. Their masters misuse them as shepherd dogs and believe that a mistreated dog responds more efficiently to their needs. They have no idea that properly trained sheep dogs do exist and can perform their duties routinely without having to be tortured and kept isolated. Eight of them, semi-abandoned by their masters, are cared for by Lamia, a very active volunteer. She visits them daily and gives them food and water. Animal Zone has provided wooden dog houses so the animals can have shelter from the weather which can become quite severe in the winter months. But upon visiting them and observing the unhealthy conditions in which they live, it is clear that much more needs to be done.

Let’s take a look at the life of the dogs under AZI’s care. There are some little lights visible in the dark, one only has to make quite an effort to see them and evaluate them. For instance:

The manager of the municipal camping where, thanks to the mayor, we have set up houses for the stray dogs Koutcho and Fovitziari, complained at the beginning of the tourist season about the presence of the dogs. He claimed that they barked so much that the camping guests could not sleep. Luckily, the mayor was not so easily convinced and replied that he would handle any complaint that would come from the camping guests themselves and no sooner. So our two dogs are still living their happy camping-life and even enjoyed some extra attention and/or food from camping guests. Fovitziari, the frightened one, definitely has gained more confidence and courage.

Where most passers-by (in their car or on their motorbike) enjoy the beautiful Amorgian landscape without a second thought for the chained dogs in the view, Vicky, a Greek woman from Athens, while enjoying her holiday on Amorgos, decided to file an official complaint about the situation of those poor dogs she saw chained-up along the road. She had done the same on the island of Karpathos and that case will be brought to court there soon, we hope (after three years!).  However, within 2 days after the complaint was made, the dogs disappeared from their place and were found in a dirty, barren and desolated field, where the shepherd who owns the dogs often ‘parks’ a dog he doesn’t use for a while. Two out of the four dogs there did not have any shade and were forced to endure the burning August sun. When we saw the situation, we improvised some protection for them with some crates and pallets. They could hardly wait until we were finished to crawl into their shady spots.

Mules and Donkey

The other animals of Amorgos that are in need of urgent attention are the mules and donkeys. The European community has called for a census of their population, as it clear to all that their numbers are rapidly dwindling. In Amorgos the mules are typically kept with no shelter and with their legs tied to impede their movement “so that they do not trespass”—the official excuse. In reality, in an effort to obtain some freedom of movement, the animal causes hideous self-inflicted wounds which, if not properly treated, can easily become infected and brings the animal to an untimely death. Carelessness and die-hard habits are the rule. When found sick or of no use, they are abandoned with no food or water.

The EU has a plan offering a census and free assistance for the mules who, at this rate, will soon find themselves on the list of endangered species. The Mayor of Amorgos has so far refused to submit an application for the free program, despite the repeated suggestions of some members of his staff. AZI intends to put pressure to the municipal council to submit an application for this program.

Dewey, Huey and Louie

Dewey, Huey and Louie (all female) were found in a garbage can in the area of Rachidi when they were only 1 day (!) old—their umbilical cords were still on them. One of AZI’s volunteers took them in her house and did her best to keep them alive. She followed the veterinarian’s orders on how to bottle-feed them every 2 hours, how to take care of their closed eyes so that they wouldn’t get infected, and how to keep them clean, warm and safe. Her efforts was a big success, as now all 3 cats are now 2 months old, can eat by themselves, and are very healthy, active and playful.

A Mass Murder in June

Aug2009_poisoned_cat1Aug2009_poisoned_cat2 Poisoning is a traditional method adopted by some of the islanders to curb the animal population. During two weeks in June 2009 in a specific area of Xilokeratidi, in the immediate vicinity of a restaurant bearing the name of its owner, a large number of cats were poisoned. Dr. Dimitri Vassalakis, a Naxos-based veterinarian who is part of AZI’s Scientific Committee, investigated the deaths and discovered that a fertilizer was used as poison, which causes a slow and painful death. More than 25 cats died, the majority of them part of AZI’s program. Most of these cats had been treated, sterilized, vaccinated and fed through AZI’s support.

In the past, such an event would be tolerated by the local population. This year it caused uproar. Letters of reprimand were sent to the suspected poisoner (the owner of the restaurant in whose backyard the poison was found and photographed) and the police was alerted. An indictment against an “unknown” was deposited with the Mayor’s office who proceeded to print a flyer which was posted all over the area. What was remarkable is that the Mayor for the first time acknowledged—without naming AZI—the existence of an authorized program of curbing and treating stray animals.

Two more cases of poisoning had occured in the Spring: in Katapola, near the port, approximately 15 cats were poisoned. In Raxidi a small group of cats was eliminated during the month of May.

On August 22, representatives of AZI decided to speak with the owner, who declared himself extraneous to the event. It was explained to him that the association of his name with the nefarious event was not only immoral and useless but could reflect negatively upon his business, in so far as tourists would be discouraged from patronizing a restaurant where poison is handled.. A visible change in tone occurred at this point: the restaurant owner went as far as pledging help towards the future development of AZI. It was made clear to him that for any “cat problem” he may have in the future, he should request the intervention of our vet, Dr. Vassalakis.

It is hoped that this strategy of enlisting former enemies in the workings of a local association for the protection of animals and the environment will yield better results than hostile confrontation.

Dr. Vassalakis visited Amorgos three times from Fall 2008 through Spring 2009. During each visit he vaccinated a vast number of stray cats and neutered a good number of them. A little ‘V’ mark on a cat’s ear signifies that they have received treatment. Compared to previous years and other areas of the island, Dr. Vassalakis’ intervention in the three aforementioned villages has radically improved the situation in those areas.