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Lisa Ferguson at her Toronto home with her dog, Cisco, recently adopted from Greece, where the economic crisis has led to a sharp rise in dog abandonment.J.P. MOCZULSKI

A growing number of pets are being abandoned in the streets of Greece amid the ongoing economic crisis, prompting calls for help from animal shelters there.

"There were always [strays], but now those who are not great animal lovers find an excuse to set the dog on the street," Vana Theodoridou, the manager of KAZ, a shelter near Athens that sends rescued dogs to Canada, said.

Dianne Aldan, 69, provides a link between KAZ and Canadians wanting to adopt. She has been helping Greek dogs find a home since 2001 through a charity out of Toronto called Tails from Greece Rescue. She has airlifted more than 350 pups.

"It never ends, and especially now … with the financial situation, a lot of dogs have been abandoned," she says. Her charity charges a $375 adoption fee, and KAZ takes care of vaccinating and sterilizing the dogs. Once they find a home, they are airlifted from Greece to Amsterdam, where they spend the night before heading to Canada.

Ms. Aldan has three homes awaiting their dogs in August. The adopting families had to wait longer than usual because Greek banks have been closed for most of July, making it impossible for the shelter to withdraw enough money to make travel arrangements.

Brooke Berrington and Alex Sanderson say it's worth the wait. The Toronto couple had been looking to adopt a dog, and spied Demi on, a website that connects animal charities with potential adopters. A video of Demi at the Greek shelter showed her to be "quite calm, very cuddly, the kinds of things we were looking for," Mr. Sanderson said.

Lisa Ferguson adopted Cisco, a two-year-old yellow speckled lab that was found tied to a tree in front of the KAZ shelter. Ms. Ferguson thought she'd never love another dog after she lost Rocky in 2013, but couldn't resist Cisco's big yellow eyes peering at her from the Petfinder screen. She says she fell in love with the dog, but when she saw where he was from, she also felt it was her way to help a country.

"I, as an individual sitting over here in Canada, can't do much to help the Greek economy, but I can rescue an animal and I can make room for one more in the shelter over there," Ms. Ferguson said.

He was frightened and skittish when he first arrived, but he was soon lying comfortably on her king-size bed in Scarborough. "It's as if the animal knows it's been rescued and that you're providing it a better life," Ms. Ferguson said.

But officials say shelters here have more than enough dogs that need homes – thousands of unclaimed strays are euthanized every year in Canadian shelters.

"If you want to have a dog, please adopt one in Canada. Our shelter system is already overburdened," Barbara Cartwright, chief executive officer of the Canadian Federation of Humane Societies, said. She also warns that lax regulations could lead to animal diseases being brought into the country.

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