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The Problem with Strays

Written by David van Beveren | September 20, 2020

In the modern world, when most of us think of stray cats and dogs we typically don’t recognize that even though several countries and governing bodies have found ways to tackle the issues that come with having homeless animals on the streets (such as: shelters, castration, vaccination etc.) , the weight of this dilemma is still very much ongoing and prominent till this very day. In fact, most people seem to be quite ignorant and unknowing towards all the problems that arise when these animals are left unattended and their country/state/county of residence refuses to take care of them. 

A recent trip back to my hometown of 12 years; Thessaloniki, Greece, sincerely opened even my own eyes as an already vegan individual, to how disordered the living situation for these poor creatures really is. 

The first thing I learned is that in countries like Greece, where the complication in question has reached problematic levels, there’s still no single official sector that fully accepts responsibility for animal welfare, the few chunks of it that exist are quite shattered and unavailable in most areas. The result? Numerous strays, way too many per city and while several municipalities have at least taken some responsibility to vaccinate and chip some of them, most are not castrated and unfortunately have a very short and miserable existence. 

Furthermore, doing research for this article pulled me deeper into the rabbit hole of reasons why we should all be fighting to get animals off the streets for good. Let's take stray dogs as an example: just a few quick incidents of trouble they cause include littering with feces that no one cleans, noise pollution and dangerous traffic accidents that not only result in the dogs’ deaths but also endanger humans. Dogs tend to fight during mating season too, which means that biting other dogs and even people is yet another risk. Biting can also spread diseases such as rabies, if these animals are multiplying at an alarming rate due to lack of castration, makes vaccinating all of them even harder, like a domino effect. Lastly, even though many residents of local places attempt to provide food and “shelter” for the strays, some people commonly poison said food, the animals end up dying, this then leads to horrible odour, parasites, rotting and more hot spots for the spread of different diseases.

Additionally, feral cats pose an even bigger concern. While they are equally as affected by precisely the same dangers as dogs, felines run an even higher risk of spreading diseases just by existing and being unvaccinated, these include: toxoplasmosis and cat scratch fever. Most importantly, stray cats are known to contribute to the extinction of several mammal species worldwide because of their predatory instincts especially when they’re born in the wild. Lastly, they spread their offspring in staggering numbers: in a seven year period, a pair can create up to 400,000 babies. 

Now that I’ve elaborated on the obvious negatives of having animals pushing for survival on the streets, with barely any help from us humans, I’d like to direct your attention to some possible solutions of how one could raise awareness and do something about this themselves, maybe even get the government involved if enough people are on board! 

Of course, getting informed as one individual already does a lot of good, you’re already reading this article after all! Perhaps this can get the ball rolling and you could do even more research on the subject online, or through local shelters and your country’s sources of information concerning animal welfare. Next, spreading the word is essential. Tackling this obstacle requires local communities and countries themselves to pay attention and take things more seriously than just chipping and/or vaccinating some animals, this is clearly out of control. Volunteering or even donating to suitable organizations created by people interested in getting strays off the streets for good is also a brilliant idea to make a small change for the better, just think of all the impact you could be making, even just saving one life is to be applauded! Finally, if you have no time or money for volunteer based activities, consider spreading the “adopt don’t shop” mentality always. That way, these poor homeless animals can have a cozy home instead of a pavement or a shelter cell and hopefully authorities can direct their attention on the entirety of the matter at hand more sharply. 

If you would like to help support the constant efforts of citizens trying to help homeless dogs/cats survive in Greece, check out the links below for some insight: 




About the Author
David van Beveren

David van Beveren is founder and team leader of Vegan Hacktivists. In 2019, he founded the animal rights tech organization to promote vegan activism and to address gaps in data and technology in the vegan movement.