2004 offer to exile city strays

In a bid to clear Athens of thousands of stray dogs without overtly angering animal welfare groups, 2004 Olympics organizers said yesterday they would give the government a plot of land 60 kilometers out of town to be used for a vast kennels complex and care center. Animal rights groups have accused the government and 2004 officials of planning the mass extermination of the capital’s strays in order to provide Olympics visitors with a squeaky-clean image of the city. Both the Agriculture Ministry and 2004 organizers deny this. «The 2004 Olympics can offer an opportunity for long-term planning to address the question of strays,» the Athens 2004 Organizing Committee said in a statement. «Time is pressing, which imposes the need for immediate action.» The 10-hectare plot at Erythres, in a remote, agricultural area northwest of Athens, can be used to house 1,000 strays, according to Athens 2004. Yesterday’s statement said the care center would treat, vaccinate and neuter strays. «We reject the idea of euthanasia, unless that is dictated on public health grounds,» it said.