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Paros Life - March 2006
A great landmark
By Bruce Hymers

It is now ten years since PAWS became established in 1996.

In the last decade, many people have devoted time, energy and finances to the realization of PAWS' goals. Sadly, they have found their efforts hampered by a constant barrage of criticism, much of it far from constructive, and occasionally, slanderous accusations of the sort that bring down governments. Along with a constant shortage of funds, space and manpower, it has at times been an uphill battle. However, perhaps the greatest difficulty has been introducing an "Anglo-Saxon" concept of stray animal welfare into a Mediterranean society where hitherto there was little understanding of its value or necessity.

For the first time last month, PAWS attended a council meeting along with other organizations and individuals who contribute to the administration of Paros as a community and an economy. Our reception was positive, appreciative and we were accepted as valid contributors to the ongoing improvements to our island. We left the meeting feeling encouraged and with the promise of some public funding!

What has changed? Gone are the days when I would step into town one morning to find it littered with the bodies of dead and dying cats and dogs bearing the tell-tale signs of strychnine poisoning. Yes, there are still many animals living on the streets, but they are much healthier, many of them sterilized and a far cry from the miserable spectres that reduced many a tourist to tears ten years ago. The packs of dogs are smaller and far less aggressive due to the sterilization of many of the males.

For me, the council meeting was a great landmark. Not only because it highlighted the results of the work done by everyone involved over the last ten years, but because it is now politically and generally accepted that the work being done by PAWS is economically and socially necessary to the island. We are shaking off the ineffectual "do-gooder" image which was unfairly applied to us for so long. We still have much work to do, but are now confident that it can be done.

Are your pets safe from Avian Flu?

It is now clear that Avian Flu (H5N1) is becoming pandemic as more countries report cases among their wild bird populations. Many people have contacted PAWS regarding the risks of infection to their cats and dogs through contact with infected birds. We have obtained the following information from the World Health Organisation and the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

The H5N1 virus is transmitted through respiratory secretions and fecal material. There are reported incidences of wild cats infected in East Asia and infection of domestic cats under laboratory conditions in Europe. It has not been confirmed that infected cats will develop the disease. There are no reported canine infections.

There have been no guidelines issued relevant to the protection of domestic cats and dogs, but, as a precaution, it is advisable to prevent access by any birds to their food and water bowls.