Veterinary surgeons said yesterday that government measures to register pets and sterilize strays on Athens’s streets before the Olympics were a step in the right direction and they said they would limit the cost of registering animals. The Agriculture Ministry issued ministerial orders on Wednesday, bringing into effect the recent law concerning pets. These oblige dog owners to register and tag their pets within six months and also demand the collection, registration and tagging of strays. Stray males will be fitted with blue collars and females with red ones. Lambros Antoniades, general secretary of the Panhellenic Veterinary Surgeons’ Society, told Kathimerini that the Agriculture Ministry’s legislation was a positive move in that it institutionalized a number of steps. He said that owners will have to register their pets and have them fitted with microchips. «On the other hand, strays will be marked by wearing collars made of strong material that will make it evident from a distance that the specific animal has been vaccinated and sterilized,» Antoniades said. «The cost of tagging pet dogs will be 35 euros and there will be a 15 percent discount for dogs beyond the first one,» he said. The government’s policy will be to sterilize the strays and release them if they are not dangerous to the public. The legislation also establishes rules for setting up animal shelters, but does not state clearly what agencies will be responsible for this. Another ministerial decision approves of credits worth 12 million euros for the creation of shelters, but these funds are for the next three years. For 2003, 1 million euros have been earmarked. This suggests that there is not enough time to deal with the problem of some 5,000 strays in the capital’s streets. One of the decisions refers to «permission for municipalities and animal protection agencies which do not have the necessary infrastructure to cooperate with people or other animal protection groups which do have some space for the animals to stay there a few days until they have recovered (from sterilization) and are returned» to the streets. This means citizens will be asked to provide hospitality to strays until they are set free.