THE growing problem of stray dogs and animal welfare in general requires a more flexible and productive law which will hopefully be in place at the end of the year, according to Nicosia’s municipal health inspector, Michalis Lagos.
The interior ministry, local municipalities, officials from the game fund, NGO’s and veterinary services have all been contacted to contribute to a new law that will oversee swifter and more efficient handling of situations where animals have been mistreated or abandoned.
“In many situations it boils down to the owners of the animals, especially in cases of stray dogs,” Lagos said. “All animals have specific needs, whether they are dietary or physical and people that are looking to buy a pet should make the necessary research to know what they’re getting themselves into,” he added.
Lagos revealed that the municipality had received an increased number of reports of stray dogs, which he put down to the end of hunting season and partly the economic crisis. “There is always an increase in numbers of stray dogs at this time of year at the end of hunting season, a problem we hope the new law will eradicate,” he said.
Once a stray dog is picked up by the local authorities it is kept in temporary care for 15 days and if it is not micro-chipped or if its owner does not come to look for them they are handed to the Nicosia dog shelter. “Nicosia municipality also advertises lost dogs in papers in the hope that an owner can be found in cases where dogs have distinguishable marks or carry micro-chips,” Lagos explained.
Environment Commissioner, Charalambos Theopemptou believes that although there are many active organisations in Cyprus for the protection of animals there is room for improvement.
“Serious changes and improvements need to happen to our laws and our practices,” he said. “It is a well known fact that we have a large number of stray animals without there being any kind if method of checking the numbers,” he added.
Theopemptou feels that local authorities and the multitude of animal organisations need financial support to deal with problems better, an opinion shared by Lagos. “There are many organisations set up in Cyprus which protect and help animals but at this stage they are all struggling economically,” Lagos said.
Theopemptou also expressed his concern with the practice of many farmers leaving poison around their premises to ward off packs of stray dogs that have formed in certain areas. “In their attempt to make sure hunters stay off their farms, farmers are placing poison which can be dangerous for any animal,” he said.
In cases where animals are poisoned, the public is urged to visit their local police stations and report it as it is considered a criminal act.
The commissioner wished to bring to light the work done by the many volunteers who are in their own way attempting to fill the void left by the lack of legislation on the matter. “We have many heroic volunteers who are attempting to overcome people’s indifference and state deficiencies by creating animal shelters but financial support is almost non-existent,” he said. “The whole system needs to be put in order so volunteers don’t need to keep struggling constantly to find food, veterinary care and places for the animals to live once we’ve abandoned them,” he added.
Theopemptou expressed his astonishment at the vast array of animals that can be found in animal shelters. “Some of the animals shouldn’t even be in Cyprus, living in this sort of climate, and euthanasia is not a solution for them,” he concluded.
The delay in the proposed legislation has not gone unnoticed and Animal Responsibility Cyprus (ARC) feels pressure needs to be exerted on the competent authorities to push the law through.
“The animal shelters in Cyprus are experiencing severe difficulties,” head of ARC. Kyriacos Kyriacou said. “Abandonment of animals continues unabated and the deathly cycle continues. On the one hand most shelters are overcrowded and lacking funds and volunteers to do the daily work, while on the other side we have breeders who breed and sell dogs,” he added. He explained that pet shops are unregulated and will sell whatever the customer wants.
Kyriacou revealed there were currently five proposals sitting at the Attorney-general's office for legal drafting. Those are the regulations for breeders, the regulation for shelters, the regulation on pet shops, the law on dogs which is to be amended and the proposal of the agriculture minister for on-the-spot administrative fines.
“If and when these go to parliament to be voted on, the problem will begin to be solved and there will be more control of abandoned dogs,” he said. “I am not saying that the situation will vanish, but at least we will see the numbers of strays reduce,” he added.
Kyriacou expressed his concern that shelters were becoming overcrowded and could no longer deal with the increased number of strays being taken in.
“The present situation cannot continue, with the public constantly seeking solutions from shelters,” he said. “How can they cope with the overpopulation of dogs when at the same time breeders are operating uncontrolled, in the absence of any laws?” he asked.
Kyriacou called on the Attorney-general to push through the pending regulation so parliament could finally vote on it. “Each passing day, each hour that passes, more and more dogs are abandoned, thousands of which, despite being healthy, are euthanised,” he concluded.