NEWS

Greek dogcatchers are sent out on the offensive ahead of the Games

Olympic Games dogcatchers were sent on the offensive yesterday to round up strays in the athletes’ village after the animals breached the tightest security ever seen at a Games. Australian Olympic Committee (AOC) chief John Coates said dogs were roaming the village that will house 17,000 athletes during the August 13-29 Games in the Greek capital. «But they haven’t been sniffing at my heels,» he said. Soldiers stationed around the Olympic Village were petting and feeding the dogs, one AOC official said. Games organizers said animal welfare groups and local dogcatchers were rounding up the animals and would clear them out by tonight. «They will be collecting all strays in the area close to the village in the next two days,» said Athens organizers spokesman Michalis Zacharatos. Zacharatos said the dogs would be neutered and returned to where they were picked up when the Olympics were over. Athens is home to an estimated 15,000 strays. Many dogs are so at home that they obey traffic lights when crossing streets and regularly wander on to the pitch at soccer matches. The stray dog issue has dogged the Athens Games for months, with some animal rights groups complaining of the poisoning of dozens of animals to get them off the streets. Greek Olympic organizers announced last year that they would round up strays and place them in temporary kennels during the Games in a bid to make the streets around the Olympic venues safe. (Reuters)