By Bejay Browne
THIEVES broke through three security doors at a Paphos animal charity in the early hours of Thursday morning to steal donation boxes and the staff’s float.
Christine Panayiotou, who founded the organisation in 1980, told the Cyprus Mail that staff and volunteers had been left shaken by the break in and described the thieves as disgusting.
“When I was informed that the clinic had been broken into, my first concern was for the animals, to check that they hadn’t been harmed in any way. Thankfully they were all right,” she said.
According to Panayiotou, the thief or thieves carried out the raid some time between 1.30am and 7am when the clinic and rescue centre opened.
“At about 1am to 1.30am vets were dealing with an emergency poisoning case, so we believe whoever carried out this break in could’ve been watching the clinic. The audacity of this behaviour is shocking,” she added.
The vets on duty live above the clinic’s tearoom which is next door to the clinic.
Panayiotou says that this was the fourth time the clinic had been broken into in the last six years. “That’s why we have these 4/5cm thick bars around all of the windows,” she said.
Paphos police visited the scene and found footprints on the door frame. Panayiotou said officers explained that the thief had used a crowbar to pry open the padlock and had put his feet on the wood for leverage.
The clinic founder said the burglars even had the cheek to leave the crowbar outside the front door.
The two collection boxes – one in the tea room and one in the clinic – hadn’t been emptied since the beginning of September and was estimated have held some €550 in total. In addition, the day’s float of €364 had also been left at the clinic and was swiped.
“There isn’t usually money kept on the premises, but I left early last night. There is also damage to the doors and frames which will need to be replaced, this will cost around €300-€400. I think it’s disgusting,” said Panayiotou.
“They must have worked on getting in for hours; the police said it would’ve taken some considerable time to gain access. I can’t believe nobody saw or heard anything.”
The clinic is situated alongside a busy road in Paphos, and the thieves had gone in through the front, which faces a car park.
Papahiakos will now hire a security guard. There were around 48 animals-cats and dogs-in the quarantine area to the back of the premise at the time of the break in.
The animal welfare organisation has recently been in hot water with the government following a decision by Inland Revenue to strip it of its charitable status because it sold merchandise.
But Panayiotou stressed that a number of productive meetings have taken place, the most recent earlier this week.
She said: “I can assure you that we are not losing our charitable status. This is all a political problem which is being rectified.”
The organisation provides shelter and re-homing for stray cats and dogs as well as many other services including – an information and complaints centre, a free veterinary clinic, free rescue and 24-hour emergency service, shelter, boarding, re-homing, pet travel service, education programmes, a coffee shop, six charity shops and a book exchange.