By Bejay Browne
THOUSANDS of healthy dogs are being put to sleep as charities struggle to cope with the increasing numbers of abandoned and stray animals being picked up on the streets, according to a number of animal organisations and volunteers.
They say that many of the island’s animal charities are now desperate as pounds are overflowing and more animals than ever are having to be euthanised.
Niki Proctor, 35, is a British expat living in Oroklini. The businesswoman and animal charity volunteer contacted the Sunday Mail with the aim of highlighting a situation which she says is burgeoning ‘out of control’.
“Hundreds of dogs are being abandoned and then from overflowing pounds they are sent on to be euthanised. It’s tragic,” she said.
Proctor said that more needs to be done by the authorities to educate people as well as starting a spaying and neutering plan.
Proctor is a volunteer with Pets2Adopt, an island wide registered animal welfare charity with a website (and now Facebook page) which advertises animals in desperate need of new homes.
Christiana Mandriotou of the charity said the economic crisis is being used as an excuse by some pet owners. “If you have a family, surely there are leftovers for the dog to eat?” she said, adding that abandoned dogs are put into pounds and are often put to sleep after two weeks if they have not been re-homed.
“The shelters and the pounds are full and overflowing. Everyone knows that the Argos shelter, for example, is on its knees. The donations have dried up, they have 500 dogs and they are full up. They have no chance,” said Proctor.
The volunteer was referring to the Argos animal sanctuary in Larnaca, which has launched an urgent Facebook appeal to help them save the shelter.
Volunteers from Pets2Adopt regularly go around the pounds and take pictures of the dogs to try to reunite them with their owners or to find them new homes.
According to Mandriotou, unwanted family pets, hunting dogs and litters of puppies are being left abandoned.
“Last month alone, we found more than 50 puppies abandoned in boxes and refuse bins. We have managed to re-home or reunite more than 150 dogs from the beginning of the year until now,” she said. “It may not seem like a large number in comparison to those being euthanised but at least these dogs have a second chance at life.”
She says another 20,000 dogs are getting poisoned, killed, or abused each year.
She noted that a survey carried out seven years ago by a number of concerned associations; found that 60,000 animals are put to sleep annually in Cyprus.
“This number decreased slightly five years ago, but I believe we have now exceeded this horrifying figure.”
But not all of the animal charities agree that numbers are growing or that more dogs are being put to sleep.
Suzanne Ashmoore of Paphos-based Paphiakos and CCP animal welfare says they have yet to notice a marked increase in the numbers of abandoned animals being brought in, nor are they putting more animals to sleep than usual.
“Obviously because of the current situation, people are doing more to support the human charities, but the donations haven’t dried up altogether,” she said. “We are not seeing an increase in numbers as I don’t believe the crisis has hit us yet. We rescue from 8,000 to 10,000 animals a year, and the numbers are roughly the same so far.”
Ashmoore elaborated on the charity’s euthanasia practice. ”By law we have to keep a dog for 15 days in case a home can be found or an owner changes their mind. After that the animal becomes our ‘property’. We don’t just put an animal to sleep because they have been with us for that time. Every dog has its own story. We have some dogs which have been with us for, 7 to 11 years.”
Mary Anastasi, president of the Voice of the Animals organisation, recently told the House Environment Committee that around 170,000 dogs are abandoned in Cyprus every year.
“Animal shelters cannot cope with this huge burden, which has unfortunately worsened with the economic crisis,” she said.
Anastasti said her organisation recommends a control, protection and public animal health service to be created in order to improve animal welfare.
Mandriotou said this should include fining owners for walking their dogs without leads as these often end up as lost dogs, prosecuting dog abuse and abandonment cases, and fining owners who fail to micro chip and register their dogs.