Anti-poison Dog Units in Greece

In Greece, the use of specially trained dogs to detect poison baits started in 2014, as part of the LIFE+ EU funded project “The Return of the Neophron”. That year, two specially trained dogs from Spain were acquired to form part of the country’s first Anti-poison Dog Units. As soon as they arrived in Greece, the two dogs went immediately into action; the one as part of the anti-poison dog unit established by the Hellenic Ornithological Society / BirdLife Greece in Meteora and the other one as part of WWF Greece anti-poison dog unit in Dadia.

They were followed by two more units with specially trained dogs formed by the Natural History Museum of Crete in collaboration with the First Hunting Federation of Crete & Dodecanese, under the “Innovations Against the Illegal Use of Poison Baits” project. Three more dogs were acquired a few years later, as part of the LIFE Bonelli eastMed project.
In 2017, the Hellenic ORNITHOLOGICAL Society acquired the first dog for the detection of poison baits which was exclusively trained in Greece.

σκύλος ανίχνευσης detection dog
“Cookie” in Meteora, the 1st dog-detector of poisoned baits in the country

The operational status of the Anti-poison Dog Units is legally recognized and more specifically, their action is referred to in the Joint Ministerial Decision for the drafting of Local Action Plans for the prevention of the use of poison baits. The anti-poison trained dogs are recognized as working dogs, according to the Act 4830/2021, which defines the framework concerning the welfare of domestic animals.

In 2002, having recognized the necessity, usefulness and effectiveness of these dog units, NECCA proceeded with the acquisition of seven (7) such dogs, each one comprising the corresponding anti-poison Dog Units.

Anti-poison Dog Units’ acquisition as well as the operational needs were financed from the Organization’s own resources but also with the contribution of the TIESD (Transport, Infrastructure, Environment and Sustainable Development) perational Programme 2014-2020 & the LIFE ARCPROM project “Improving the conditions for the coexistence of brown bears and humans in 4 National Parks of S. Europe”. Henceforth, for the first time in Greece, working dogs are included in the workforce of a public sector Agency, in the service of biodiversity protection.

As of 2024, 12 Anti-poison Dog Units, staffed with 13 specially trained dogs, are currently patrolling in the field in Greece, as part of the action of both NECCA and other private entities.

The seven (7) Anti-poison Dog Units of NECCA are briefly presented below:

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Anti-poison Dog Unit of the Management Unit of the Southern Peloponnese Protected Areas

Brendy is a German Shepherd, which, along with her handler, patrols the Southern Peloponnese. The duty often calls them both out of the main area of ​​their responsibility.
The first results of the Anti-poison Unit show that the crime of poisoned baits is also “present” in the Peloponnese, while in some hotspots it is quite intense.

σκύλος ανίχνευσης με νεκρό ζώο detection dog with dead animal

Anti-poison Dog Unit of the Management Unit of Messolonghi National Park and Protected Areas of Western Central Greece

Brando is a Belgian Malinois. Along with his handler, they patrol some of the Griffon Vulture’s strongholds in Western Greece.
Their main area of ​​action extends beyond the area of ​​their Management Unit’s responsibility while, at regular time intervals, they carry out patrols in important areas, including the Acarnanian Mountains.

Anti-poison Dog Unit of the Management Unit of Protected Areas of Thessaly

From Pelion to Agrafa and Meteora, Dalton (Belgian Malinois), along with his handler, are ready to intervene in order to keep the Thessalian land clear of poison baits.
In this way, they protect the Griffon Vultures and the last Egyptian Vulture of the area, as well as the many working dogs that are active across the area of their ​​responsibility (shepherd and hunting dogs).

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Anti-poison Dog Unit of the Management Unit of Olympus National Park

Jago (Belgian Malinois), along with his handler, are tasked with patrolling the Olympus National Park, as well as the neighboring areas.
From the first months of operation, the team have already identified the hotspots where many working dogs have fallen victims of this practice.

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Anti-poison Dog Unit of the Management Unit of Northern Pindos National Park

Yasmin is a Border Collie, trained in Greece and acquired in the framework of the Transport Infrastructure, Environment and Sustainable Development Operational Program with the co-financing of the European Union.
Yasmin and her handler patrol the mountains of Pindus, while they also assist to achieve the goals of LIFE ARCPROM project, which aims to improve the conditions for the coexistence of brown bears and humans.

Anti-poison Dog Unit of the Management Unit of Protected Areas of Central Macedonia

Bora (German Shepherd) and her handler are based in the area of Lake Volvi. The team patrols the protected areas of Central Macedonia, from Chalkidiki to Lake Kerkini.
The duo are ready to help and save lives wherever needed.

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Anti-poison Dog Unit of the Management Unit of Nestos -Vistonida and Rhodope National Parks

Laika, trained in Greece, is a Border Collie that patrols the Rhodope mountains with her handler, as part of LIFE ARCPROM project. The Management Unit’s area of ​​responsibility includes the Nestos Straits where, in 2012, the entire colony of Griffon Vultures disappeared from the area, due to a poison bait.
After more than ten years, Griffon Vultures are starting to recover, and the Anti-poison Dog Unit will make every possible effort to prevent any a similar tragic incident from happening again in the future.