By Bejay Browne
AN animal welfare charity in Paphos is fighting a decision by the income tax office to strip it of its charitable status.
Paphiakos and CCP animal welfare were sent a letter by the tax office in March stating they were no longer recognised as a charity. But a meeting is scheduled next week between the charity and the relevant ministry to resolve the issue, which the former believes is merely a misunderstanding.
“We have already lodged an objection to the decision of the tax office which said that we are not a charity. This is a big mistake; it’s very embarrassing and very disappointing,” the charity’s accountant Marios Taliotis said.
Founded in 1982, the organisation was initially known as Cyprus Cat Protection (CCP) and Animal Welfare. It provided shelter for stray cats and dogs. In 1994 it became a registered charity (No.1529) known as Paphiakos and CCP Animal Welfare, with the vision of promoting the aims of the government for improving animal welfare all over the island.
Since then, Paphiakos operates an information and complaints centre, a veterinary clinic, a free rescue and 24 hours emergency service, a shelter, boarding, re-homing and pet travel services. The charity also has a coffee shop and six charity shops as well as a book exchange.
“We have tangible evidence to support everything which we do, we don’t make a profit, we don’t own anything, such as buildings – we pay rent for our charity shops and clinic – and we have close to 400 volunteers helping us,” Taliotis said.
“We are fighting for survival during these tough economic times and now someone has added this problem. We are determined to carry on all of the good work which we have been undertaking for many years now.”
He said if closing the charity had to be considered, it would spell disaster for Cyprus. “We have no intention of closing. We are the only animal welfare charity which represents Cyprus internationally. We attend EU exhibitions, congresses and seminars and we also help to train staff from abroad.”
Last year 82 university students from abroad were trained in animal welfare by Paphiakos and gained certificates to say they had attended their courses. “Nobody pays us for this,” Taliotis said.
He also said Paphiakos removes thousands of dead and injured animals from the roads and highways. “We are the people the police and authorities call to do this and we don’t get paid for this either.”
He said that he is optimistic that once the ministry understands exactly what it is that the charity does and how much unpaid work they undertake, they will “step in and stop the course of action which has been taken against them”.
But he remained defiant, if the outcome of the meeting is not in favour of the animal welfare organisation.
“If our objections are not accepted, we will have to go to court to fight for our right to remain as a charity. We don’t want to have to take this course of action, but as a last resort, this is what we will have to do. We owe it to the animals and our supporters.”
By Bejay Browne