by Katerina Lorenzatos Makris ~
San Diego Humane Society and SPCA, a large, spiffy animal shelter in my beautiful home town, is celebrating World Spay Day in a wonderful way by offering 100 free spay/neuter surgeries to cats and dogs of low-income owners. Meanwhile a tiny animal charity group halfway across the globe in Greece, my beautiful home away from home, has taken on a similar goal. But for the smaller group, it’s quite a challenge.
Kefalonia Animal Trust (KATs) operates on a skinny shoestring budget on an island where 30,000 residents are seemingly outnumbered by the constant flood of unwanted dogs and cats, and in a country strangled by one of the worst economic crises in modern history.
Nevertheless KATs founder Pat Dolman is determined to meet her goal. And if there’s anyone you can count on to follow through, it’s Dolman.
I’ve known this petite yet formidable British expatriate, her husband Dave Dolman, and her sister and brother-in-law Julia and Keith Preston—all of them primary forces behind KATs—for more than a decade, during which time they’ve rarely turned me down when I’ve asked for help with my own animal rescuing and fostering here. That’s why KATs is one of the current beneficiaries of 50 percent of all profits from Spicy Stories Save Lives.
Recently Dolman took a few minutes from her daily whirlwind to answer some questions about the new fundraising campaign, which she’s dubbed the 100 Dog Neuter Appeal. In my head before our interview I was calling it the 100 Dog Snip. Thank goodness Pat is much more sensible and I’m not in charge of naming campaigns.
Q&A with Pat Dolman, Kefalonia Animal Trust (KATs)
Spicy Stories Save Lives: Would you briefly describe the KATs 100 Dog Neuter Appeal?
Pat Dolman: We’re trying to raise 10,000 euros to neuter 100 extra dogs in 2013. [That’s about 13,000 U.S. dollars, or 8,600 British pounds].
Spicy Stories: How did you get the idea for it?
Dolman: Looking for a way that would not put people off from donating. For example giving one euro or one British pound or one American dollar would not change the life of the donor but with enough people caring enough to make the effort to give this small amount they could change and improve the lives of 100 dogs.
Spicy Stories: What do you hope the campaign will accomplish?
Dolman: Raise enough money to do the extra 100 dogs.
Spicy Stories: Are you targeting stray dogs? Owned dogs? Dogs at the local shelter, Animal Rescue Kefonia (ARK)?
Dolman: Any dog. It is important to get as many sterilized as possible to reduce the number of dogs abandoned which cause problems for everyone, emotionally, health-wise etc.
Spicy Stories: When/where will the spay/neuters be done, and by whom?
Dolman: The three local vets will include these extra animals in their normal daily work.
Spicy Stories: How are you going about fundraising?
Dolman: Facebook appeals, requesting that everyone share the info, website, posters and word of mouth. Info in the vet surgeries. Anything else that comes to mind we will use.
To help the appeal along we have collecting tins in all three vets’ surgeries, and the charity shops here on the island. We are organizing collection days outside the supermarkets and already have permission to collect in the car park at Alpha Beta Supermarket.
Rachael Antonatos, a wedding planner here, is intending to tell all her guests about the appeal, and we hope that other reps in the holiday industry will do the same.
Spicy Stories: Any particular period of time in which you hope to raise the funds?
Dolman: Realistically, I am hoping to raise this amount in the next six months or faster if possible, on receipt of the first thousand euro ten dogs will be booked in.
Spicy Stories: How will island residents know this program is available?
Dolman: Via the vets. And we are proposing to advertise, still working on this now. Info will also be passed by our supporters.
Spicy Stories: How do people apply to have their animals spayed/neutered through the campaign?
Dolman: Due to the language problem, I intend to notify each of the vets how many, and what sex they can do, but again this needs further investigation to make it work, for the moment we have enough on the waiting list for the first lot.
Spicy Stories: Why are you focusing on dogs?
Dolman: We will still be continuing our usual monthly budget where we include cats.
We tend to neuter the cats in January, February and March as this is the time of year when they are pregnant. We do it again in September and during this time not so many dogs can be done due to financial constraints. The dogs don’t have a specific time for breeding so it is an ongoing project.
Spicy Stories: What are the benefits of spay/neuter to the animal?
Dolman: For the street animals they can survive and thrive better on less food. The hormones take a great deal of their nutrition. Their bodies are not being worn out by constant pregnancies. Less fighting among the males reducing injuries and accidents where they have only one thing on their minds where their care for their own safety has low priority.
Spicy Stories: What are the benefits to the owner?
Dolman: No males hanging round every six months, which brings noise and inconvenience for the owner. Fewer dogs escaping in search of a mate, and of course, no worries about what to do with all the unwanted babies.
Spicy Stories: What are the benefits to animal welfare as a whole?
Dolman: Fewer strays could help prevent many poisonings, shootings, etc. to get rid of the unwanted dogs in their area. The animals should be healthier and we hope calmer so not such a nuisance.
Spicy Stories: What are the benefits to the human community?
Dolman: A little more pride in their country. With fewer dogs on the loose there’s less of a health hazard from feces, etc. on the roads and paths. Less chance of their own dogs picking up disease such as Parvovirus.
Spicy Stories: Some people worry that the procedure will hurt their pet. How would you respond?
Dolman: Let them know that the opposite is truer. No chance of the females having a potentially fatal pyometra, and it reduces the chance of breast and testicular cancer. Complications from this operation are rare.
Spicy Stories: Others worry that it will change the animal in negative ways, for example make him or her less protective.
Dolman: Not true. Protective dogs are that way due to their nature. Neutering will not change that. It can help to reduce aggression in some male dogs, but on the whole they remain exactly the same post-op as they always have been.
Spicy Stories: Another common worry is that the animal will get lazy or fat. What’s your reaction to that?
Dolman: Fat…only if they are fed too much. Their food should be reduced after sterilisation as a matter of course. As for lazy… if you let them be, any dog can be a lazy dog, whether neutered or not, just like people!
Spicy Stories: Do you see change or progress on the horizon for animal welfare here?
Dolman: We can only hope. It is a constant battle. Unless the laws are implemented the answer is probably no, too many dogs left in the middle of nowhere, chained without adequate food, water and shelter. There’s the constant abandonment of puppies and kittens in rubbish bins. Others left to die of starvation in the mountains or the streets. All of these are against the law. Unfortunately, the law is useless without implementation.
Spicy Stories: Have you seen attitudes about spay/neuter change over the years in Kefalonia?
Dolman: Definitely. British expats have always had any animal they take in sterilized. Years of education have made this the normal. But this past two years more Greek people are requesting help to get this done. Twelve years ago it was almost unknown so things are improving now.
Donations to the KATs 100 Dog Neuter Appeal may be made via PayPal or bank transfer.
Getting hitched? Why not in lovely Kefalonia, with the assistance of KATs supporter Rachael Antonatos? Contact Cephalonia Concierge.
Questions about animal care? Ask Spicy! Email us at youradopteddogATyahooDOTcom.
Seen our book? Your Adopted Dog: Everything You Need to Know About Rescuing and Caring for a Best Friend in Need, by Shelley Frost and Katerina Lorenzatos Makris, available through Amazon.com.
Katerina Lorenzatos Makris is a career journalist, author, and editor. Her fiction includes 17 novels for Simon and Schuster, E.P. Dutton, Avon, and other major publishers (under the name Kathryn Makris), as well as a teleplay for CBS-TV, and a short story for The Bark magazine. She has written hundreds of articles for regional wire services and for outlets such as National Geographic Traveler, The San Francisco Chronicle, Travelers’ Tales, NBC’s Petside.com, Animal Issues Reporter.org, and Examiner.com (Animal Policy Examiner).