During the first days of this new year I lost two of my cats - one went missing and I found the other one dead outside the house. Although I never like to jump to the conclusion that an animal has been poisoned, in this case I'm afraid that it looks like the most likely explanation. Both cats had been perfectly healthy the previous day and, in searching for the one that was missing, I found another two dead in a nearby field.
Antonis Lambrou, our vet, told me that he is currently treating cases of poisoning in cats and dogs on a daily basis from all over the island. A case he gave me as a typical example was when he was called last week to attend a pet dog who was having severe convulsions. He succeeded in getting the dog to vomit and could see that he had been fed tainted chicken liver - the blue-coloured poison was still clearly visible.
People who live locally to me are warning one another to keep their dogs tied up and their cats indoors as they say there is poison everywhere. A number of them have already lost their pets in recent days. The most common explanation I hear, from locals and from Antonis, is that the perpetrators are owners of goats, lambs and chickens who have been suffering losses of their livestock to stray dogs. In order to protect their animals, they put meat contaminated - usually with organophosphates ("fytopharmaka") - around the edge of their fields and this, of course, indiscriminately kills any animal that happens to find it.
Rat poison is also a source of danger to pet animals as well as to children if it is not used responsibly and laid in areas where only rats might be attracted to the bait. And although there is some danger that a cat might get secondary poisoning by eating a rat that has already taken the bait, these cases are rare.
Antonis has kindly supplied me with a list of common poisons, symptoms and treatment. In all cases, if you suspect poisoning, contact the vet immediately for advice and treatment.
Rat Poison (Warfarin & others)
Symptoms: bleeding from body orifices, internal bleeding, weakness, collapse. Treatment: induce vomiting, stomach pump, administer antidote Konakion MM (vitamin K1).
Aspirin poisoning Symptoms: hyperventilation, no appetite, blood in vomit, blood in diarrhoea. Treatment: induce vomiting, stomach pump, clear digestive tract.
Mass poisonings are, of course, very bad for the reputation of the island and can affect tourism. We have received letters at Paros Life in the past where visitors have witnessed cruelty to animals here and resolved never to visit Paros again. Although Greek law protects animals and deliberate poisoning is subject to fines and possible imprisonment of up to two years, it is very difficult to prove and these penalties do not seem to act as a very effective deterrent.
What we can do is first of all continue to educate and encourage sterilization of dogs and cats whenever possible in order to reduce the stray population. We also need to keep pet dogs from running loose and consider insuring our dogs for third-party liability. I spoke with Christina Stella at Ethniki Insurance who told me that if you have third-party personal liability insurance (basic cost starts at 60 euro per year for cover up to a maximum of 30,000 euros annually after the first 150 euros deductable), you can add liability for your dog to cover damages to livestock. The dog must normally be tethered and must always wear a collar to qualify for cover. For further details for each individual case, call Christina on 22840-24743 or 697-7402602.
Costas Dragatis of the local Greek paper, Ta Nea tis Parou, has also kindly agreed to translate and publish this article to ensure that the same message is passed to the Greek community. Let's hope that we can convince people that poison is not the only solution.
PAWS News by Lornie Caplan
We held a last minute committee meeting following a sudden cold spell and after much discussion organised a plan for the winter feeding. This is my first PAWS winter and I know precious little about dogs so I had to ask for guidance about how much to put down per animal. In the end we agreed on three sites dispersed from one end of town to the other and an unearthly hour to be the regular time to avoid attracting attention and nuisance to traffic and danger to bouncing hounds!
Tassos has very kindly given us a large discount on dried food from his pet shop and my car now smells like a huge mobile dog biscuit! I have had to take to carrying a small bagfull wherever I go as the strays now recognise me and my car and I look a bit like a female Francis of Assisi walking about town! Although there are few tourists about, the dogs that bound up to me slobbering usually turn out to want only to play and have a fuss, and often ignore the pile of biscuits.
A while before Christmas all but a couple of the stray dogs in Naoussa were poisoned and now no free-ranging cat is safe it seems. I have given hours of thought to what we can do about this, but we are powerless without proof. Once our new Mayor has had a chance to settle in, we will endeavour to arrange a meeting to learn his views on this and other animal-related problems.
Dates to note: 1) Sunday, 2nd February at 11am, Archilochos Hall, Paroikia - PAWS Annual General Meeting to elect board members. 2) Saturday, 29th March, PAWS Bazaar from 10am in Paroikia, venue to be confirmed. Good quality items of clothing, furniture, books, CDs, jewellery, household goods etc required for sale to boost funds. Please call 22840-28282 or 697-3620525.
PAWS annual membership dues are 30 Euro for regular members, 15 Euro for guest members. Send to PO Box 14, Parikia, or pay directly into the PAWS bank account at the Alpha Bank - account no. 625-002101-053610 and call one of the names below to give us your name, address and tel no.