‘I hope the day comes ̶ and I manage to see it ̶ that there will be no strays in Greece and every animal will live happily next to a beautiful family’
To mark World Stray Animal Day on April 4th, we spoke with Erietta Kourkoulou Latsi about our common goal ̶ the protection and care of animals.
From a noticeably early age, your love of animals has driven you to strive for their protection and well-being. Going one step further, you founded the Save a Greek Stray Shelter and recently launched your new venture, A Promise to Animals, to raise awareness of production animals and veganism. How important is it to inform and educate society, starting at an early age, to address the issue of stray animals?
Information and education are everything! Ideally, there should be compulsory curriculum in primary schools concerning respect for all animals.
Relative to many European countries, in Greece we have a lot of strays. What are the reasons for this? What are we doing wrong?
The truth is that the number of stray animals in Greece is the result of both mistakes and good management at the same time. The mistakes have to do with a lack of education regarding respect and harmonious coexistence with non-human animals. We have a bad habit of classifying animals into categories and measuring their value based on what they can offer us instead of recognizing that they have an inherent right to life, as we do, and that it is our obligation to respect and protect them from the inhospitable world we have created. The good thing to which I refer to is that most – if not all – other European countries have solved the problem of stray animals by mass euthanasia. Fortunately, this is illegal in Greece.
How important is sterilization after all and why do you think some people oppose it?
The issue of sterilization is non-negotiable in 2021! It is the only solution to our problem, and it does not only concern stray animals, but also domestic pets. Those who oppose sterilization are thinking selfishly and usually derive some benefits from continuing to breed their animals. Breeding should only be allowed by registered breeders, whose animals have a pedigree and who are regularly checked by the competent body.
Why would anyone prefer to have a stray as a pet?
A person who is ready to have a pet with whom they will share the next fifteen years of their life, should not make this choice based on the appearance of the animal, but on the animal’s needs and breed traits. Also, by buying a ‘purebred’ animal one finances the trade of puppies, which is a major contributor to the problem of stray animals and exploits these creatures in the worst way for the sole purpose of profit. There are thousands of wonderful animals literally rotting in shelters or suffering on the streets. Until this cease to be the case, the only choice of a responsible citizen should be adoption.
How important is the role of volunteers, both for the operation of the shelter and for the support of the animals? What is the most difficult time for a volunteer?
Volunteers are the soul of every organization and are a role model for us all. Our volunteers are family, and we really admire them for dedicating their free time (which they could devote to their own well-being) to offering love to creatures who need it so much. The most difficult moment for a volunteer, as for us in the administration, is seeing an animal suffer and not being able to alleviate its pain.
Can you describe a difficult incident you encountered at the shelter?
There have been so many difficult cases that it is hard to choose. One of the things that struck me personally was the case of Kombo, a ‘pure-blooded’ Pekingese who was probably abandoned due to health problems. His owner, wanting to be sure that Kombo would be lost forever, removed his microchip with a scalpel and then abandoned him. When we saw the scar on the back of his neck and realized what had happened, we could not believe it.
When you take on an abandoned, abused, phobic animal, a concerted effort is made to reinstate the animal’s trust in people and to get them back on their feet. How do you feel about this process? And how do you feel when the stray finally finds their family and you must leave them?
This process gives me a sense of respect and admiration for the ability of these amazing animals to forgive and trust people again, but also anger for the evil they have suffered, which, of course, contributes to the stubbornness and will that I have to keep fighting for their rights.
What does it mean to love animals, in your view?
Love for ALL animals! This love presupposes the rejection of the anthropocentric reality in which we live in and the adoption of a way of life that highlights our respect for the other animals with whom we share the planet. In my view, someone who still consumes animal products cannot consider themselves to have true compassion and love for animals, they can simply claim to love domestic pets, such as cats and dogs.
With regards to World Stray Animal Day what would be your wish and what do you hope to achieve with your project?
I hope that the day will come ̶ and I manage see it ̶ when there will be no strays in Greece and every animal will live happily next to a beautiful family. I hope that we, as an organization, can contribute to this purpose and for the day to come, when there is no reason for our organization to exist.