As with most Greek islands, Symi has a large population of feral cats and dogs. SAW was formed in 1997 by a concerned islander with the aim of caring for this ever increasing group of distressingly unhealthy street animals.
As time went on more volunteers were recruited, fund raising was started and the organisation grew. In 2000 a committee was formed to put the organisation onto a more formal footing. The committee is now made up of five full-time Symi residents plus one summer-only resident and with members from the UK, Denmark, Austria and Germany our team has a truly international flavour.
SAW were responsible for bringing out a UK vet on seven annual visits when over 500 animals in total were treated. These visits were sponsored in part by different companies but also by SAW funds. The main priority of the SAW vet visits was to administer any necessary medical treatment, perform minor surgery and to neuter as many street cats as time allowed. The SAW team, along with extra volunteers recruited to help, worked tirelessly with a wonderful vet on each occasion.
For at least 4 months each winter, SAW provides a feeding programme for the street animals on Symi. A team of volunteers take food two or three times a week to designated feeding points. There have been as many as nineteen different locations in Yialos, Chorio and other areas on Symi. For the last few years some of the local supermarkets have kindly donated canned animal food, pet pasta and biscuits. However, the bulk of the food is still funded by SAW. The cost of these supplies increases each year as have the number of feeding stations. In the winter of 2011-12 we spent 840 Euros on providing food for the feral street animals of Symi. The winter feeding programme is extremely important to help the young, old and sick cats survive the winter weather.
SAW also buys ‘regular’ treatments against fleas, tics, ear mites, worms etc. Along with basic antibiotics and animal care essentials. In 2011 we spent well over 700 Euros on this basic animal treatment.
Whilst we are not vets, SAW offer medical advice, assistance and first aid whenever required. In the event of serious illness or injury, we work directly with vets on Rhodes. On a number of occasions, we have been able to pay something towards the enormous professional costs of vital surgery on rescue animals.
We aim to help and find homes for abandoned or orphaned kittens and puppies whenever possible. Without a shelter or refuge one of our volunteers will take on the role of ‘mum’ until the animal is strong enough and a suitable home is found.
Funds for our activities come almost entirely from donations. There are collecting tins in several sympathetic shops, restaurants and other businesses on the island, just look out for the distinctive blue containers with our SAW cat logo.
We hold occasional fund-raising events and these have been very successful at boosting our funds. In 2007 the committee successfully applied for a grant of 1000 Euros from the Greek Animal Welfare fund for which we are very grateful.
If you ever visit beautiful Symi and would like to chat about animal welfare or have questions about our work do get in touch. Just ask at any of the businesses where you find our collecting tins, they will point you in our direction. It's a small island so we're not hard to find and we'd love to meet you.