WHO COULD have ever thought that animal protection and welfare would become an issue of the presidential elections?
It was never on the radar of our politicians – many of them considered it beneath them to deal with cats and dogs – but public campaigning on social media and the appearance of a few activists has turned animal welfare into an election issue at least for two of the presidential candidates.
Nicolas Papadopoulos was the first to present a comprehensive framework for a policy on the protection of animals at a meeting with representatives of animal welfare groups two weeks ago. He said he would set up an agency for the protection and welfare of animals with executive powers. A specialised police force for animals would also be set up to implement government policy and combat “the scourge of neglect and cruelty to animals”.
A few days before Papadopoulos’ announcement, President Anastasiades invited photographers to take pictures of him with his new pet – a pooch he took to the presidential palace from a dog shelter. Pictured kissing his new pet, Freed, the president urged people to get their pets from shelters at which there were hundreds of dogs in need of a home. Perhaps anticipating that animal protection would become an election issue, Anastasiades had also taken on as an advisor the leader of the Animal Party Kyriacos Kyriacou.
Yesterday the president unveiled his own comprehensive policy for the protection and welfare of animals and he has an advantage over his rival candidate as he is in a position to rationalise legislation and assign new powers to government departments. He said he will satisfy the demand of animal welfare groups for the creation of ‘animal police’, the relevant legislation is currently being prepared. This would be a ‘special department’, within the structure of the police force, with special authorities relating to the welfare and protection of animals from mistreatment, he said.
The talk about the ‘animal police’ is difficult to take seriously. How will they enforce the law? Will the animal officers enter people’s homes to check that they are treating their pets well? Perhaps the whole thing is an excuse for the government to hire a few dozen more policemen before the elections.
It is, however, a good thing that animal protection has become an election issue because it will create more awareness about animal welfare and, hopefully, make people more sensitive to the plight of animals.
We hope the advisors of the politicians will also inform them that the money would be far, far better spent not on an ‘animal police’ but on a large-scale neutering and spaying programme to tackle the problem of over-population.
The €75,000 approved for the neutering and spaying of cats and dogs by the cabinet in August, and mentioned yesterday by the president, is nothing but a drop in the ocean. Money should go on reducing the rate of growth of the animal population – according to some estimates there are 1.2 million cats – and not the creation of animal police. That could come later.