By Maria Gregoriou
THE GOVERNMENT has dropped a plan by the previous administration for the creation of a police unit for animal welfare.
The news was broken to animal lovers yesterday by Justice Minister Ionas Nicolaou, who met representatives from Cyprus Voice for Animals, a non-profit organization.
The meeting came hot on the heels of a protest on Saturday outside an Aglandjia tavern accused of beating a kitten and kicking it into the road. Around 300 people protested against the alleged violent abuse, and dropped off a letter with their demands to end animal cruelty at police headquarters after the demonstration.
Cyprus Voice for Animals (CVA) said yesterday Nicolaou told them their long-standing demand for animal welfare police could not at this stage be established even though according to the group only 10-15 officers would be needed islandwide to run an effective unit.
“The minister understands the various problems that arise in the implementation of the Law but believes that these duties should be undertaken by ‘Community Policing’, in other words, neighbourhood police officers,” CVA said after the meeting.
“Community policing has not yet been established throughout Cyprus, and the minister promised that it would soon be expanded…instructions have been issued for the neighbourhood police to be specially trained on animal welfare and protection matters.”
Mary Anastasi, President of CVA and lecturer at the Police Academy since 2009 on subjects related to Raising Awareness on Animal Protection and Welfare as well as Law 46(Ι), 1994, was invited to prepare the content of the necessary seminars, which will be attended by 70 neighbourhood police. “We wish to assure you that despite the current lack of success, we will not give up and will continuously work towards the goal of establishing an Animal Protection Police Unit, however long it takes,” CVA said.
At Saturday’s protest over the kitten outside the Steki tou Kosti tavern – which remained closed that evening due to the demonstration- organised groups, animal lovers and members of the public gathered at around 8pm.
Many were holding banners saying: ‘Animals are not our slaves,’ ‘We are asking for animal welfare police now,’ and ‘Punishment for murderers.’ The placards were tame compared to the threats issued over the internet last week saying the alleged ‘cat killer’ should have his hands cut off, should be tied to a car and dragged down the street, or should be sent to the electric chair.
At the protest, co-founder of Animal Responsibility Cyprus (ARC), Kyriacos Kyriacou, read a letter addressed to Police Chief Michalis Papageorgiou, asking for the immediate and thorough investigation of the kitten incident.
“We ask that those responsible go to court and be charged for their crimes. These people will be made an example of. If these crimes are left unpunished, people are driven further to poison and mistreat animals,” Kyriacou said.
The letter demanded an animal welfare police force be created and also a neutering programme for cats and ways of protecting stray dogs, other than imprisoning them in cages.
The protest lasted around two hours.
According to Andrea Barlow, the organiser, it was very successful. After the protest, some of the people involved went back to the tavern and fed some of the cats and one person took a sick-looking kitten home with them, Barlow said.
The protest was not the end of the line according to Barlow.
“Some groups will prepare leaflets and give them out at locations near the tavern and outside the tavern. The purpose is to educate people on how to protect cats. They will also be there to watch the cats and be sure they are safe,” she said.
She said the protest was a message. “If people are being violent to animals, then who is to say they will not also be violent towards defenceless children?” she said.
ARC complained that no TV cameras had covered Saturday’s protest. State broadcaster CyBC was especially criticized as having an obligation to be there as it “receives millions of euros every year from taxpayers.”