By Maria Tsangari
DESPITE the fact that animal poisoning is an “ongoing” and widespread problem in Cyprus, only a few cases are reported to the police, Kyriacos Kyriacou from the ARC animal protection organisation said yesterday.
While animal rights groups encourage people to report cases of poisoning, Kyriacou said pet owners usually do not because they are discouraged by the current legal system.
He argued that the relevant legislation is inadequate, often making it difficult to build a case.
“People think it is a waste of time to contact the police since it is very easy to find loopholes and avoid conviction,” he said.
Kyriacou gave as an example the fact that in order to secure a conviction the offender has to be caught in the act. Even if you take a photograph of a suspect in action, the courts do not accept this as evidence, he added.
According to a representative of the Cyprus Voice for Animals organisation, even if a case is reported to police, the investigation procedure is not always followed properly while the onus of collecting evidence often falls upon the complainant.
Zacharias Evangelou, a vet at Iaso clinic in Aglandjia, said the number of poisonings varies and depends on the area of residence and the standard of living of the animal owner. People who live in rural areas and have a lot of animals in their care are more likely to have their animals poisoned, he said.
According to Vetanima clinic in Tseri, 90 per cent of animals poisoned and taken to the clinic manage to survive because the owners were able to recognise poisoning symptoms and rush their animals to the vet. Symptoms vary depending on the poison, but the most common is vomiting.
Some of the more common poisons used on animals include pesticides and rat poison which are easily accessible.
Kyriacou noted that poisons are odourless and colourless, which is why pet owners should be extra careful.
He called on pet owners to avoid areas where poisonings have already been reported, adding that a Facebook group has been set up called Cyprus Poison Alert where pet owners can share information about dangerous areas and protect their animals.
A police spokesman yesterday advised pet owners to be more careful, especially now that the hunting period has started.
According to Kyriacou, poisonings are common during the hunting season, often because of personal differences between hunters.
On Tuesday, Latsia municipality announced plans to work in close cooperation with the police and local vets in an effort to locate places where cats and dogs have been poisoned and the people responsible.
“Animals are the victims of personal differences and are completely blameless for any irresponsible behaviour their owners might display,” Kyriacou said. “We should be concerned that a European country has to deal with such uncivilised practices.”