Santorini is one of the most expensive Greek islands one of the most popular tourist destinations for travelers from around the world.
The island attracts millions of annual visitors drawn by its widely publicized scenic Aegean Sea views and cliffside Cycladic white houses. During peak summer season, as many as 17,000 tourists descend upon Santorini every day.
But such “over-tourism” has created massive disparities on the island, which features luxurious villas, sailboats and cruise ships on one side — and on the other side features suffering animals living in third world conditions.
The situation prompted one local woman named Christina Kaloudi to take action.
She began by voluntarily taking in stray animals without help from local authorities — who eventually almost arrested her for doing so and demanded she release them.
But with financial support from a German animal welfare organization, Kaloudi was able to establish her own shelter on legally acquired land.
Since 2009, the Santorini native has devoted her life to the Santorini Animal Welfare Association (SAWA) — a non-profit founded by the island’s animal lovers.
SAWA aims to protect Santorini’s animals ranging from stray dogs and cats to abandoned donkeys and mules. The association also cares for their wellbeing and advocates for their rights.
In cooperation with the local municipality and veterinarian center, the SAWA provides spaying and neutering, vaccination, medical treatment and — when possible — home assignment for dozens of stray animals.
The association oversees the implementation of the “Code of Practice” for donkeys and mules working in the Bay of Fira — one Santorini’s main touristic hotspots — and aims to improve their working conditions.
Starting from six in the morning, Kaloudi works at the association’s shelter every day — cleaning up, medicating, feeding and socializing with approximately 100 dogs, 20 donkeys and mules, two horses, 20 cats and two pigs.
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