A team of volunteers traveled to Greece to report on the dire situation of the street dogs living there. A German animal welfare association urgently needs support.

“Just 20 minutes after I arrived at the animal shelter in Greece, I had a bleeding dog on my arm,” says Malte Zierden in an interview with the star. The man from Lower Saxony, who became an Instagram celebrity last year through what he calls his “relentless documentation of a cleft palate”, flew to Greece with four other people. The aim was to support the German association Hundegarten Serres in Central Macedonia. Zierden had given his companion the idea: Vanessa Tamkan, who went through the press as a GNTM dropout in 2019, asked him if he wanted to be there. She and her husband, as well as Jessica Schröder, who “Bachelor” fans know as a former candidate, and her husband wanted to help. In Greece, the team expected more supporters.

Being a “celebrity” and already having a few fans on social media is not a bad requirement if you want to do something good. The five would like to support the Serres dog garden in building an animal shelter according to German standards on Greek soil. It helps if you have several hundred thousand followers on Instagram to whom you can report on the cruel situation on site. The team was on the road for eight days: no sooner had an animal been taken from the street than it went on to the next stray dog. Together with the others, the five looked after injured dogs until late at night and recorded their work with pictures and videos on Instagram. They not only wanted to help through their active participation, but also to be effective in the media,  

“Dogs are worthless”

“Street dogs have no status in Greece. We noticed that from people’s reactions,” says Zierden. The rough handling of the animals was evident in situations like this: “A man brought us a dog, held it by one hind leg in front of our nose and kept pulling it back. When we wanted to take it, he simply dropped the animal. That was pure provocation. The dog was then so traumatized that it is now difficult to approach him. Something like that makes it difficult to find an animal. ” 

Because finding a home for the wild dogs is one of the main concerns of the Serres dog garden. According to Zierden, many Greeks there are convinced that the Germans want to enrich themselves with their problems: by saving the street dogs, caring them for them healthy and mediating them in German families for money. “I don’t know why you think that, but it puts a lot of obstacles in the way of the helpers,” Zierden regrets. 

500 to 600 dogs in an animal shelter

The number of strays in Greece fluctuates annually, but it is millions. Castrations, such as the one that the association carries out to reduce the reproduction of the dogs, are rarely carried out because they have to be paid for privately. “Unfortunately there is little support from politics. Animal shelters are being built, but 500 to 600 dogs are locked up there.” The conditions in the homes are catastrophic, there was dog excrement everywhere, everything was filthy, rats live there, “reports Zierden .

Only a few fences and boundaries separate the animals from one another, so that several packs live together on one area. “Sure, the dogs are not always friendly.” Zierden reports about Teßi, a bitch he found at the beginning of his stay: dogs from another pack attacked her and inflicted a serious injury on her back. “Unfortunately this is part of everyday life for the people there. They cannot understand why we Germans react in panic to something like this.”  

250,000 euros donations in four days

Through their reporting on Instagram, the team was able to collect 250,000 euros in donations in four days. “I never thought that we would be able to do it so quickly!” Says Zierden, who is enthusiastic about the strong solidarity the team has developed in such a short time. “But there is still more. When the shelter is finished, there will be running costs. There is also still a lot to do on site. We want to educate people and ensure that street dogs are neutered for free. And of course we want find a new home for the stray strays. “

At the end of the trip, 13 dogs were brought to Germany. They arrived in transport boxes in the belly of the passenger plane. “To see how the rescued animals were handed over to their future families in Germany was a great experience,” enthuses Zierden. 

Emily Wong

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