When you think of Santorini in Greece, a lot of things may come to mind. Picture perfect weather, a deep blue ocean, or maybe the picturesque towns of Fira and Oia. The last thing you may think of, especially if you haven’t visited before, is of stray dogs.
In fact, at first glance, these dogs don’t look like strays at all. Most of them have collars, appear to be in good health and are very friendly. But if you hang around long enough, you’ll soon realise they have no owners and are very street smart. The truth is, most of these animals are not strays, but abandoned pets.
You see, Santorini has a slightly darker side to it, and perhaps Greece does as a whole. After scouring tourist forums such as TripAdvisor, I discovered that many other tourists had also noticed all the friendly dogs who don’t have owners. As it turns out, every year hundreds of pets are forced onto the street as their owners leave the island for one reason or another.
There is a good and bad side to this story. Even though these pets have been abandoned, it doesn’t mean they are not cared for. They become a part of a community of locals and tourists who all do their bit to look after and care for them. During the tourist season, the steady stream of visitors to the island brings with it many animal lovers who go to great lengths to feed and care for these dogs during their stay.
On the other hand, during the winter months the situation becomes more dire. Restaurants close down and popular tourist destinations such as Perissa Beach become ghost towns as the locals head back to mainland Greece in pursuit of work or to visit family. Many of these dogs, especially the young who cannot travel far, become weak with starvation and may die. A vicious cycle between seasons.
During my two week stay on Santorini, I tried to photograph as many abandoned dogs as I could, mostly in Perissa Beach – a popular tourist destination. The aim of this post is to raise awareness of the animal abandonment issue on Santorini. It’s not just dogs. As well as cats, Santorini has a huge population of working donkeys that are abandoned each year when they are no longer useful to their owners.
You can help by heading to http://sawasantorini.org/ and donating to their cause or adopting an pet from their shelter. I hope you enjoy the images, please leave your comments below.