Is Dogfighting on the Rise in Greece?

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Dogfighting and betting on it is illegal in Greece. But, after finding some 200 abused pitbulls around the region of Attica in the past few years, animal advocates are concerned that this "blood sport" is become more popular. The discovery of so many pit bulls around Athens has led to suspicions that the animals are being held there in cages in wooded areas, but, so far, advocates have no actual evidence to back this up.

Earlier in March, police received a tip-off from an anonymous caller and raided a stable where a dogfight was taking place in Katerini, in northern Greece. At least 50 people were found watching the dogs; many fled into the nearby fields. Police were still able to arrest 17 people, six of whom were foreigners from the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM). Thirteen have been found guilty, given short jail terms and fined.

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Six dogs were found
at the sight of the fight and one who was dead, apparently from injuries sustained in fighting. Some of the dogs who were rescued - all have injuries, some severe - can be seen on the Facebook page of Animals Friends of Katerini.

Police in Athens say there is currently only "circumstantial evidence" of dogfights taking place and that most of these are on a small scale. As one anonymous officer at Athens Police Headquarters tells Ekathimerini, "if dogfights were being organized on a bigger scale and the bets were sizable, then we would certainly know a lot more."

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While praising the raid in Katerini, animal advocates say they do have evidence and note that small fines and short jail terms do not pose much of a deterrent. "We can't do the job of the police, but the indications we have suggest that dogfights are certainly taking place," says Marina Lymberopoulou of Pitbull Rescue, an organization that rescues dogs and seeks to find homes for them.

Pitbull Rescue not only has photos of dogs waiting to be adopted (like Olympia, found starving as a puppy beneath a staircase) but also of a pitbull, Lili, who reportedly dragged her owner from railroad tracks to safety.

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If you visit Greece, you've likely noted how many dogs (many strays, some with collars) roam the streets and certainly in the busy streets of Athens. Animal advocates in Greece like Pitbull Rescue and also international organizations have raised many concerns about the fate of animals in a country that has been in a recession for five years and has a 26 percent unemployment rate. Surely there is even more of a need to save and care for animals who often provide companionship and support, rather than throwing them away in the garbage or having them attack each other in the name of "sport"?

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