Where to go in Greece if you love animals
This post is about recommended destination in Greece for animal lovers. However, some of the information on this site applies to most travel destinations.
Why a Greece for animal lovers post?
I like animals. Especially cats. The sight of a stray cat evokes strong wishes to pet, feed and water them. If I had my will, humans would be totally outnumbered by cats in our household. But what about animal protection in places you travel to?
Some countries in Europe have the strictest animal welfare laws
Animal welfare is part of European Union legislation. Countries with the strictest animal protection laws (Austria, UK, Germany, Sweden, Denmark, Switzerland and Netherlands) are in Europe.
What about Greece?
Sadly, the law is not always practised in the way it was intended. When you travel in Southern Europe, you will find many stray animals looking at you with those big hungry eyes.
I always feel so sorry for them. And I wish I could do something there and then. In fact, you can do something by choosing your destination wisely and by highlighting your concerns to local businesses and complain to the appropriate Tourism Authority.
Don’t get me wrong! Many Greeks, among them some friends of mine, love animals, and have pets that are ex-strays, but Greece keeps coming up in many “Worst places for animal welfare” lists.
Unfortunately, animal protection in Greece is not really in line with countries like the UK or Germany. Although, at least in theory, it should adhere to European Union Laws.
The number of reported cases of animal cruelty is very high in Greece. To make things worse, spaying and neutering is very uncommon across Southern Europe. Although these services readily available, there is little awareness. Neutering is therefore rarely done. Animal protection organisations do their best to neuter, but often lack funding.
So, are there places in Greece for animal lovers? Anywhere that cares for animals just better than the rest?
Are there places in Greece that care for animals especially well?
On my last trip to the island of Aegina, there were many stray cats in Aegina, fewer in Athens. Let me say… as much as I loved Aegina in general, I’d like to exclude it from my places in Greece for animal lovers! The trip was what actually prompted me to write this post.
At first, who can resist giving a piece of leftover fish to a little kitty at a restaurant table? Fact is, the locals hate it. And in Aegina, I thought stray cats were just tolerated.
Then we noticed that there were some feeding places for animals. People also put large containers of water out for them. After we passed a group of hungry cats diving in the bins, we bought some dry cat food and fed them. The bag of cat food became an important item in my bag.
Another problem is that cats (and dogs) are allowed to multiply uncontrolled due to lack of neutering. So this will not stop until more animals are neutered. When stopping one evening to feed some cats by the bins outside our hotel, we met a British lady who goes round town every day to feed stray cats. She told us that cats are often poisoned. I have also heard reports of other places where animals are routinely poisoned, especially at the end of the tourist season. The example of Rhodes was widely publicised a few years ago, but this is by far not the only place where this happens.
And from what I were told, the strays basically have to rely on the mercy of individuals who do feed them. Some even trap and them and have them neutered, but on the whole, they are often left to fend for them selves and multiply without control.
Places to go in Greece for animal lovers
So, where could you go in Greece where animals are treated differently? Firstly, the care of stray animals lies with the local authorities, and they often don’t have the cash to care for the animals let alone have them neutered. However, there are communities that do this differently, and here are some that I have found:
(Kyklades, Aegean): This large island appears exemplary in that it has a well-organised neutering and feeding programme run mostly by a large charity (Paros Animal Welfare Society) and with Animal Welfare Paros, it has a second animal welfare organisation.
(Ionian Islands): There is a large (private) animal shelter called Animal Rescue Kefalonia on land provided by the local authority that cooperates with the local authority and is supported by a number of Austrian and German animal charities.
After visiting Corfu in October 2018, I am happy to add Corfu to my list. Much fewer stray animals than anywhere else I have seen, instead happy, groomed, well-fed cats and dogs in most resorts and villages. At least three animal welfare charities that I know of operate there. One I looked at a little closer, Agni Animal Welfare, is based in the UK but they have volunteers in Corfu all year. They engage in Trap, Neuter and Return, winter feeding, and re-homing of stray cats on the island and abroad.
That’s not a lot of places. Anywhere else?
Actually, many islands such as Aegina, Skiathos, Crete, Kos and many places on the mainland have shelters. A lot of reports on mistreatment of animals appear to come from Crete and Rhodos, so before you pick a place, perhaps do some research online and see whether there is a shelter where you can visit, perhaps walk a dog, bring some donations and just make others aware that these shelters exist and that you are going to support them.
Some general advice
Stay and eat at places where animals are treated well
If you spot seemingly stray animals at your hotel/in a restaurant, ask about them and ask if anything is done about their welfare. I wouldn’t eat or buy in a place where animals are kicked or hit or otherwise treated badly. I am finding this difficult to judge sometimes. However, I have come across places that keep some well-fed cats or dogs, and I am much more likely to patronize these.
Don’t feed stray animals form restaurant tables. I think business owners absolutely hate it, it may annoy other customers who do not have the animal-loving streak, and may lead to more animals coming to beg and to animals being destroyed.
Visit and support a shelter at your destination
Check before you travel whether there is a local shelter and visit if you can, take some donation of food, bedding or cash, and maybe help out for a few hours.
Care for animals
If you want to feed hungry animals, buy some dry food locally and fed them away from the hotel/restaurant. Try to give them water at the same time. Bear in mind they will be left fending for themselves once the tourist season ends.
If you see an injured animal, ask at your hotel for the nearest animal rescue and inform them, or if you can, take them to the vet, but be aware you will need to pay all costs. Alternatively, report it to a rescue organisation who will often come out and carfe for injured animals.
Become a flight guardian, rescue, re-home
Bringing an animal home is generally not recommended by many animal welfare organisations, but possible, especially within the EU.
First, be sure that the animal does not belong to anyone. Generally, animals must be checked, vaccinated and issued with a pet passport. So you will need a vet. Check with your airline if it takes animals. Pets can be transported in the cabin (tends to be safer) and in the hold (must be considered for larger animals) and of course their flights must be booked. Here is a list of some airlines’ pet travel policy, but it is probably best to check directly with the airline, and also book the animal on the flight. At present, Lufthansa and Germanwings, KLM, Air France, Austrian Airlines and Vueling, among others, carry pets in the cabin.
If you fly with a pet-compatible airline, you can also sign up to bring home a pet to their new family. In Germany, Flugpate is quite a popular site, and I wonder if this practice exists on other countries, especially as many airlines allow pets to travel?
Last not least: Look at home whether any animal welfare organisations nearby has co-operations with Greece (or other countries), become a member, donate or help out. Or consider donating to the Greek Animal Welfare Fund which runs neutering programmes all over the country where vets are not easily accessible. In some Northern European countries, private shelters work with Greek or Spanish, sometimes Russian animal protection organisations and regularly have animals for adoption.
We rescued three cats and we’re so happy with them
I am no stranger to this pet rescue from abroad: We have adopted three kitties from rescue organisations in Spain, and they are the most loving and friendly kitties.
Since I lived away from home, I have always had at least one rescue cat. I adopted my ex-stray cat Leia from a shelter in London 15 years ago. After she died at the grand old age of 19 earlier this year, I fell for a very different Leia while looking cats on an adoption site.
Our Spanish Siamese girl
The picture showed a rather stern looking seal point Siamese with an “I own all this” look. We adopted without meeting her, relying on the reports from the organisation and the home check to see whether our home was suitable, and just two months after the initial enquiry we picked up Leia 2.0 in Hamburg.
She flew in the cabin on a Germanwings flight from Barcelona with a flight guardian. It’s a bit pot luck with rescue cats, and there is no real return policy. And there are some hiccups: this cat already has done a protest pee on the door mat after feeding her a worming tablet, she has gone astray, fell into the lake outside our house, but nothing in the world beats that feeling when her sweet face stares at you at 6am.
Why a Spanish cat? I was already sponsoring a shelter cat there, and after hearing about the lack of funding and how adult cats rarely get adopted locally (and after falling in love with that cute chocolate face), it just felt right. If you are interested in adoption, please read my adoption story of Leia.
She didn’t stay alone for long…
A year later, she was followed by Maite, a somewhat timid but sweet blue cat. She was abandoned – she’s very much a regal Russian Blue with somewhat wonky features. I suspect she came from a puppy farm and was discarded when she grew into an adult or turned out not to be “perfect”. And a year later… you guess it! There were some discussions at home, but Aria pawed her way in very successfully. You wouldn’t notice it now, but she was another abandoned skeletal cat with large wounds that was taken in by a rescue in central Spain.
Do you know other places care for animals in Greece, and do you take into consideration how animals are treated in the country you intend to visit? I would love to hear your views – I was planning a trip to Crete but stories of animal abuse I heard and read about really has put me off for now. I would much like to extend this Greece for animal lovers post!
The small print
I regularly travel to Greece, having visited Thassos, Thessaloniki and various other places in Northern Greece in 2015, Athens and Aegina in 2017 and Corfu in 2018. This post was written in autumn 2017 and updated in February 2020. Some on the information on this Greece for animal lovers post is based on personal experience, speaking to locals and fellow travellers, and doing research for adoption of my own rescue cats Leia, Maite and Aria. All trips were organised and paid for by myself, I received no sponsorship and all organisations mentioned in this post were included following my own research.
If you have any experiences to share, please feel free to drop me a line or leave a comment and I will update this site regularly. Your experience in other countries is also most welcome, and I am planning similar posts for other countries.