Greek officials announced that, under new laws, overweight tourists riding donkeys on the island of Santorini could be fined as much as $32,000.
“In the event of violations of existing legislation by the audit authorities, the offenders will be subject to severe penalties,” Greek Agriculture Minister Makis Voridis said in a statement. “It is noted that the envisaged fine may be up to €30,000 ($32,000).”
The announcement comes as both Greece’s government as well as international and local activists crack down on animal abuse — not only on Santorini but throughout Greece.
Increased crackdown efforts began last year after images of overweight tourists riding donkeys caused backlash on social media. Images showed heavy tourists riding the animals up Santorini’s steep and narrow stairways — as well as open wounds and injuries the animals suffered from working long hours in the heat with little shade or water.
The outrage has received prominent news coverage in recent months, including an international campaign by animal rights group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA).
In July, PETA accused Greek authorities on Santorini of covering up the island’s mistreatment of donkeys.
“Greek authorities should be stepping up and stopping donkeys from being marched into the ground in Santorini, not covering up the cruelty of forcing them to carry heavy loads of tourists up hundreds of steps,” PETA director Elisa Allen said in a statement.
The organization released a video showing owners whipping their donkeys as they carried people across the island.
In response to last year’s backlash, the Greek government had introduced legislation declaring it illegal for donkeys to carry more than 10 lbs or more than one fifth of their body weight. But as instances of abuse continue, activists have kept urging officials to intervene even more.
One of the activists was Motley Crue’s Greek-born drummer Tommy Lee, who wrote a letter to Greece’s government asking them to “resolve” the “sickening abuse” of donkeys.
“I’m honored to have been born in Athens, and wherever I tour with Mötley Crüe, I proudly proclaim my Greek heritage,” Lee wrote. “But there’s an issue souring the reputation of Greece that I hope you’ll help resolve: the sickening abuse of broken-down donkeys and mules made to lug tourists up steep hills on Santorini.”
Another activist, Athens native Christina Kaloudi, moved to Santorini from Athens 10 years ago to support and care for abused donkeys on the island.
Kaloudi began by taking in stray animals without help from local authorities — who eventually almost arrested her for doing so and demanded that she release them. But with financial support from a German animal welfare organization, Kaloudi was able to establish the Santorini Animal Welfare Association.
Speaking of the donkeys, Kaloudi said, “They are made to work in terrible conditions without adequate water, shelter or rest and then I find them tied outside my shelter, barely alive.”
Kaloudi works at her shelter every day — cleaning up, medicating, feeding and socializing with approximately 100 dogs, 20 donkeys and mules, two horses, 20 cats and two pigs. See a video about her below.
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