A recent increase in the number of reported attacks by stray animals on pedestrians is largely attributable to the irresponsible behavior of citizens who abandon their pets and the failure of authorities to implement programs for the protection of strays, animal welfare experts said last week.

The most extreme example of violent attacks by stray animals in Attica is the case of an 86-year-old woman who died earlier this month after being set upon by a pack of stray dogs in the northern Athens suburb of Ekali.

Experts blame this and other attacks on pet owners who abandon their pets when they become too much of a commitment, but they also highlight the absence of positive action on a local government level.

“There are municipal programs for the care of stray animals but the problem is that these programs are rarely implemented,” Yiannis Maistros, vice president of the Stray Animals’ Refuge said.

According to Maistros, dogs change their behavior for the worst when they are abandoned.

“They form packs, search for food together and become aggressive,” Maistros said. “If the [municipal] programs aimed at fostering our coexistence with strays were being implemented, these animals would be much friendlier,” he added.

Maistros and other animal welfare experts stress that a large portion of the strays on the street have been abandoned.

“Around 10 percent of the 3,500 dogs we have treated are pedigree,” said Anna Makri, of Athens City Hall’s urban fauna department.

“Clearly these animals were not born as strays but some irresponsible individuals purchased them and then decided that they did not want them anymore,” she added.

According to Makri, the municipality gets several complaints each month from pedestrians claiming to have been attacked by stray dogs.

In each case, a committee decides whether the animal is fit to remain on the streets or poses a public safety risk.

In the latter case, the stray is kept in a municipal shelter until a foster home is found.