The work of the Greek Animal Welfare Fund began in 1959 – the year Mrs. Eleanor Close arrived in Greece.
Following World War II and a devastating civil war, Mrs Close came to live in Greece when her husband was posted there. She was soon confronted by appalling animal suffering: sick and starving cats and dogs; painfully thin and broken-down horses and donkeys at the end of their working lives; brutal treatment in slaughterhouses and the dog pound.
Having gained permission from the authorities, Mrs. Close set up a Working Committee of Greek, English and American ladies to try to change the unacceptable reality of the lives of animals in Greece.
However, the ladies soon realised that they had taken on a task that would require a sustained effort over a long period and that, in order for this to be maintained, further financial resources would be needed. As a result, GAWF was set up in London, in 1961, with the object of ‘raising funds to promote humane behaviour towards animals on the mainland and islands of Greece’. Once on a more solid financial footing, it became possible for the new charity to act on reports of neglected and abused animals, and to begin providing some of the treatment and services that were so badly needed.
In 1965, Eleanor Close was awarded the Victoria Medal, the RSPCA’s highest award, for her outstanding contribution to animal welfare in Greece. The following year she returned to the UK to become Vice President of GAWF.
Through continuous efforts and hard work, GAWF expanded its reach and set up the first Greek welfare organisation at a time when the welfare of animals was anything but a priority in Greek society. A near derelict dog pound in Athens was rebuilt and soon humane methods of euthanasia, anaesthesia and slaughter were introduced. (That Greek Animal Welfare organisation became independent in 1975 and continues its work – albeit on a local rather than a national level – at its centre at Koropi, on the outskirts of Athens, to this day).
In 2012, GAWF’s Greek company was dissolved and reformed as “Animal Action, Greece” to give it a stronger and more recognisable identity, which it still successfully uses.
Spanning almost six decades of continuous activity, GAWF counts among its achievements its:
– Provision of long term support to selected, well-run shelters for strays nationwide
– Equine Project that cares for working equids nationally, and improves the knowledge and skills of owners
– Emergency disaster response (fire, flood etc)
– Programme of neutering outreach visits to welfare groups on islands and other remote locations
– Attica-based programme of subsidised neutering for stray cats
– Positive impact on laws and regulations affecting animals’ lives in Greece
– Contribution to ending the use of animals in circuses and other performances in Greece
– Partnership with other welfare NGOs at European level
– Network of professional partners
– Campaigns that raise public awareness and promote responsible ownership
– Educational activities at primary and secondary school level
– Loyal individual and corporate donors in the UK and abroad
Today, in the spirit so passionately demonstrated by our Founder, we are still committed not only to our direct actions that work to alleviate suffering and improve the lives of thousands of individual animals, but also the campaigning and educational work we do to change attitudes to animal welfare at every level of Greek society. Added to this, our lobbying and advocacy work ensures that decision-makers keep the legislative framework and enforcement moving in a direction that acts to provide animals in Greece with the chance of a happier, healthier future.