By Peter Stevenson
VOLUNTEERS at Aradippou dog shelter have accused the municipality of neglecting the shelter, saying that despite the superhuman efforts of 10 volunteers who have rehoused over 1000 dogs, it is nearing collapse.
Christos Karoullas, the head of volunteer group the Association for the Protection of Animals and Birds in the Larnaca and Famagusta districts, says they have been left to fend for themselves by the local municipality, working overtime and holidays to look after the never-ending flow of abandoned dogs.
He told the Sunday Mail that when the group was tasked with fixing up the already existing run-down dog shelter they were expecting either financial help or manpower from Aradippou municipality.
“In 2009 we invested €25,000 to fix up the shelter as all municipalities are required by law to have dog shelters,” Karoullas said.
Aradippou municipality denies neglecting the shelter but added that the shelter’s refusal to put down dogs it cannot rehome has led to severe over crowding.
The municipality’s general-secretary, Mattheos Alambritis, praised the efforts of Karoullas and the other volunteers but said the municipality has contributed more than enough towards helping the shelter.
“Last year we contributed €12,000 towards maintaining the dog shelter but whenever we show up to drop off stray dogs the shelter is always full so we have nowhere to put them,” Alambritis said.
At issue, he explained, is the shelter’s refusal to put down dogs which means it is now packed beyond capacity. A shelter which can house a maximum of 70 dogs is having to accommodate 200, he said.
“We believe the shelter needs to come to some form of compromise and we have conceded that 15 days is not sufficient time to find a dog’s owner or a new home so we are willing to extend the waiting period,” he said.
By law, if a dog is not reunited with its owner or rehoused within 15 days, the shelter can have the dog put down.
“We operate a strictly non-kill policy,” Karoullas said, adding that it would be illogical for a group which strives for the protection of animal rights, which has helped and nurtured animals from injury and malnutrition, to then take them to a vet to be put down.
“Of course we understand their point-of-view that no animal deserves to be put down, but no animal should be made to live in over-crammed conditions,” Alambritis said.
He added that the municipality has been forced to look elsewhere, like private kennels, to house the dogs its workers pick up as there is no space in the shelter.
Alambritis said the problem could be decreased substantially if all dog owners micro-chipped their dogs and registered them at the municipality,
The Aradippou shelter is currently housing 200 dogs and Karoullas said that around 600 dogs pass through the kennel every year at a cost of around €60,000 per year to the volunteers.
“Over the last three years we have helped house around 1,300 dogs who have been adopted and microchipped,” Karoullas said.
The group pay for vets and food from their own pocket and Karoullas told the Mail they have asked the municipality to contribute at least €10,000 a year to help their struggle but were turned away.
In March the shelter had run out of food and pleaded with the mayor, Evangelos Evangelides, to help them, but Karoullas said it was only when he personally visited him that the mayor agreed to contribute.
“I don’t understand why we were asked to fix the shelter up if it’s going to be allowed to financially crumble,” he said.
To add to the shelter’s problems, its close proximity to a residential area means it has to move its premises within the year. Land has been found although funds for the move are still short.
Karoullas has said he refuses to move unless he receives help from the municipality to find and purchase suitable land.
“Despite all the work we put in we have received no respect or appreciation for the work we do to save hundreds of animals a year so all we are asking from the municipality is to contribute to our struggle,” he said.