When it comes to animal abuse and treating cases as a punishable crime, Greece has come a long way. But according to activists and advocates not far enough, who say that the system continues to be dysfunctional with many perpetrators continuing to get away with their crimes.
Head of the Greek Animal Welfare Society (PFO), Irini Molfesi told Kathimerini that judicial workers need to receive training on the matter.
“There have been cases where animals died because a prosecutor could not understand the urgency of issuing a seizure order, or because the order came too late,” she said.
Meanwhile one of the biggest challenges continues to be public awareness, with further work needed to make it clear that animal abuse is not acceptable socially and that it is punishable by law.
To achieve this, Molfesi says that every incident needs to be reported.
“A complaint needs to be filed at a police station and it needs to be backed with as much evidence as possible to facilitate the investigation,” she urged.
“The complainant should hold onto the protocol number so they can track the progress of the case through the system.”
Police data revealed that in January to September 2017, 1,900 complaints were filed compared to 1,307 in 2015 and 809 in 2004. But Molfesi says they are unclear as to whether the increase is due to heightened public awareness or an increase in animal abuse, which can be triggered during times of financial hardship.
From 2012, animal cruelty carries fines of up to €30,000 along with time in jail.
But Alternate Minister for Rural Development Yiannis Tsironis has pushed to cut fines by 50 per cent if paid immediately, a move that has come under fire by activists who say it is doing little for the cause and sending the wrong message.
While their focus is on the defenceless animals, Molfesi says that by raising awareness about animal abuse, there is a flow on effect to curbing maltreatment of people too.
She says that police officers can receive special training to also be able to look for signs in a perpetrator of animal abuse who may also be harming members of their family.
“Cruelty against animals is a social problem, even more so since it has been proven that people who abuse animals are more likely to mistreat people as well,” she said.