Denying it ever harbored plans to dispose of thousands of Athenian stray dogs through «crematoria,» the government yesterday unveiled a bill on pets and strays that would discourage Greeks from abandoning their animals while allowing local authorities to collect, sterilize – and in certain cases kill – stray dogs. «This is the practical answer to those who malignly accused our country of creating crematoria for strays ahead of the Olympic Games,» Deputy Agriculture Minister Fotis Hadzimichalis told journalists. Under the new bill, all dog owners must declare, register and tag their animals from the age of two months, have them examined by a vet at least once a year, keep a vaccination record book and ensure that the dogs’ droppings are not left in public spaces. It will also be forbidden for dogs to run loose in public spaces without their owners, who must keep them on a close leash. Offenders – including people who abandon their pets – will be fined 300-1,500 euros. There will be a registration fee to be annually renewed «at an almost symbolic cost,» according to Hadzimichalis. Disabled people, shepherds and people who choose dogs from shelters will be exempt. The law also bans organized dogfights, breeding animals for dogfights or «other events that can cause pain, anxiety or death to the animals.» And dog owners will be responsible for any harm caused by their pet to people or animals. The penalties for offenders will range from up to five months’ imprisonment to fines of 2,400-5,000 euros. Strays will be taken in by local authorities, treated, vaccinated, sterilized and kept in shelters. If nobody wants to adopt them, they will be returned to their original haunts. Dangerous animals or dogs unable to look after themselves due to age or disability will be put down.