In light of recent social media photographs put up by animal welfare groups. In addition, the comments on some of those photos. Zakynthos Informer contacted one of the leading ladies on animal welfare in Zakynthos, Sue Deeth.
The reason we wanted to contact her was to get information. Just what is happening on our island, as far as animal welfare goes? More specifically, with stray dogs. Having personally had situations regarding stray dogs, and having often been told that facilities are full. Sue Deeth has always come to my rescue in finding a solution. Most of us on the island do not need any introduction to Sue Deeth, nor her accomplishments and achievements. I personally call her “the silent achiever”, others “the guardian angel” of dogs in need. In an interview with her, she explained the difficulties of the past and her ambitions for the future.
There are three official organisations on the island. They are all volunteer organisations and Sue’s happens to be among them. There is no state-owned public shelter on the island. Thus making the facilities that are available, work on a volunteer basis only. By law, ALL cats and dogs must have a microchip implanted and be registered at the local council. Privately owned pets should be registered in the name of the owner. Who is then legally obliged to care for the pet. This includes feeding, exercising, sterilising, vaccinating and keeping it safe. Specifically not allowing a dog to roam free, without being accompanied by a responsible person outside of their private property.
Any dog which is found straying without a chip must be chipped. The council is registered as the official owner and is then legally responsible for its care. As it was in the past, volunteers were actually breaking the law. As hard as it seems to be true! In a twisted way the stray dogs by law, actually belong to the council.
Taking dogs off the street and even at times bringing them back to life, was in fact an illegal act. It is the council’s responsibility to act as carers. Although in Zakynthos, there is no such facility. Adding to the headaches of what this law brings about, relocating animals into homes was also an act against the law. What these organisations were wanting to do, seemed logical: removing the dogs from the street and helping the community in providing welfare, caused legal problems for those who involved in relocating the dogs. According to law, they were stealing from the council.
In addition to that, fundraising or having donation boxes to help, was even frowned upon as the tax department required proper declarations as to where the money was going.
Our organisations are working together on trying to make our officials aware of problems we are facing. “What we need most here on the island is an official rescue and rehabilitation centre. Just like they have in other countries. Then the centre could be registered for TRACES” Sue said.
Traces is a legal form of tracking the commercial movement of livestock that needs to be relocated to other countries. Allowing the pet to leave with permission from the council, as the dogs are under their jurisdiction. TRACES is also a well organised way of protecting the pet that is travelling, so as not to fall in the wrong hands.
Through close cooperation and in a spirit of mutual support the voluntary organisations now have written permission and official contracts, legally allowing them to do the work the council should be doing and to act on their behalf. There is a budget set aside by the council and if someone does have an issue with a stray dog, they should actually contact the council, not the organisations.
Call the council for help
It is up to the council to call these organisations, to see if there is availability for them to take care of the stray. However, it seems that most of us are not aware of this, and try and get in contact immediately with the organisations. Unfortunately, Zakynthos Council, just like every other local council in Greece, does not have sufficient funds available at the moment to pay for everything they are actually responsible for. Most of these organisations rely purely on donations for their operation. In the three or four times I have personally contacted one of the organisations, I was always told that they were full, beyond their means, however offering to help me out with a feeding programme.
Making a difference.
The three organisations are definitely making a difference on our island. In the past, we saw a lot of stray dogs roaming our streets in the villages and in town, some in awful condition. This however, has changed and as Sue states, “change has come in the form of baby steps, but it is definitely not as bad as it was in the past.” The organisations now have the ability to care for the dog, sterilize it and provide it with the necessary medication if needed. They can also help in relocating the dog to a home, or if that is not possible, put back on the streets under a feeding programme”. Obviously, the organisations want to find a home for the strays and the younger they are, it seems the easier it is to find the home they deserve.
Stray or not.
One question I put to Sue was, “Just how many strays are there on the Island? She wasn’t exactly sure of the numbers, estimating around the three thousand mark but her answer to that was, “I don’t think this amount is actually true, I am sure it is less. Most of the dogs that do roam around are owned dogs and not actually strays.” She even gave me an example of an owner of a dog who people thought to be a stray.
This is a serious issue on our Island and it is becoming more so now, that Greece has been thrown into a crisis. A lot of dogs no longer wanted or became a burden economically, were thrown out onto the streets. Some, taken up to the mountains and left abandoned, as their owners drove off.
This kind of behaviour has caused an even more serious problem, too, one the volunteer organisations could do without, as one could imagine. Owned dogs that are not looked after properly or do not have the proper surroundings to keep at home, often during season will roam the streets to mate causing problems to others. It is here that Sue mentioned education and sterilization. Animal Welfare Education, sadly enough, is not only lacking among our community but at schools, too. It is worth noting that those wishing to sterilize their dog, the organisations can help by providing economic support for the sterilization.
Sue, first started out in what was the only volunteer group at the time, ZAWF. Being a foster mum at first and then taking on other roles as time went by. She recalls the change in her life when she fell in love with a dog named Dougal. Dougal at the time was a puppy of two years old. Tourist were looking after him. “They would ride around on their motorbike with him up front” she recalls, “his hair would be blowing in the wind, he loved it.”
Unfortunately, Dougal’s life changed dramatically, left abandoned to fend on his own, when the tourists left the island. It wasn’t until Dougal’s life, literally entwining with Sue’s, things began to change for the better, once again. Sue continued to volunteer for the organisation until a management split up caused another organisation to be formed. She found herself disheartened with some of the things that had happened and the in house rules and regulations of the organisations. In a turnaround what she says “must have been driven by fate”, she started work, voluntarily with a friend, Laura. This she said, “was just what I was looking for.”
DREAM COME TRUE
Sue continues her work as she has done over the last fifteen year . Although now, she has her own registered non profit organisation, called “Healing Paws Animal Rescue, she still assists Holbrook Animal Rescue by relocating dogs to homes. Healing Paws Animal Rescue is an idea that came to Sue, being a healer herself. The idea is based on healing the animals and the people who come in touch with her animals. “You can see that animals do help people“, she notes, “If you give a stressed person a puppy to hold, it is amazing to see how these people immediately react, they become relaxed! Animals help us; and I feel that Healing Paws Animal Rescue is away to help both parties; the animals into a loving home; and the families that adopt the animal, a chance to give the attention it so deserves.”
Healing Paws Impact
Healing Paws Animal Rescue, is an exclusively small organisation, compared to others. However, its impact on the Island is greater than some. Sue spends every moment of her spare time rescuing animals from their terrible fate and brings them to her home. It’s here they will find comfort, compassion and love. Her dream for her operation to become a fully equipped Rescue and Rehabilitation could just one day become reality. Her daughter Robbie and her son Oliver, are already following in her footsteps. Oliver, although a young man is showing great initiative in this field.
for video click on:- Video rescue of Dumped puppies
Now a registered non profit organisation here in Greece and a UK charity in England and Wales. Her dream is slowly moving towards its goal. “Fundraising and having a fully operational rescue and rehabilitation centre on the island, meaning shelter, vets, education rooms, you name it , all under one roof. This would be the ultimate,” she said.
It’s organisations like Sue’s that does make the difference. Personally speaking , she has never said no to my requests for help. Even now with her busting at the limits, she offers to help a stray I have. Whilst more people I get to know, helping stray dogs, have often turned to her for help, because others couldn’t.
Healing Paws Animal Rescue is now hoping to get donation boxes set up around the Island. If you would like to help please click on the link below for more information:-healing paws animal rescue
Donations are also welcome. Sue pays for all veterinary needs, their general upkeep and finds a home, where they can enjoy the love and companionship that they so much deserve.
If you would like to help Sue in her struggle please find the below link for gifts and donations.