By Bejay Browne
THE CYPRUS GREEN PARTY is encouraging people to sign a petition in favour of implementing dog beaches in Cyprus.
Dog lovers have long been pressing for designated beaches which would provide a safe area to walk their pets without fear of poisoning or confrontation with members of the public.
The Green Party is requesting that the central beaches committee promote the issue of operating dog beaches more effectively, as provided by the law.
In September 2011 the committee said it was finally going to implement a law passed way back in 2003 which mandated that each coastal area should have a special strip of coast for dogs. Five areas, one for each district, were designated, but Cyprus has still failed to implement it because of opposition from local authorities.
The only officially designated dog beach is one in Ayia Napa that was opened up in August 2008 on the municipality’s own initiative.
The Greens say they are willing to meet with both the municipalities and communities to ally any concerns, and highlight the possibility of operating dog beaches without any negative impact.
District secretary of the Paphos Greens, Andreas Constantinou, said that designated dog beaches are working well all over the world and a similar approach should be adopted in Cyprus.
“In a number of countries such as Australia, dog beaches are found next to public beaches. They are clearly signed, which is important to avoid any friction between swimmers and people walking dogs.”
Constantinou stressed that costs involved in implementing dog beaches are minimal and should include bins and bags for disposing of dog waste to ensure that beaches are kept clean.
Head of the Peyia beaches committee, Nicos Konikkos believes the creation of a dog beach in the municipality is a good idea and could also be financially beneficial. But he said that Cyprus mentality is mostly old school and this new idea will take time to be accepted.
“A few months ago the matter was raised at a council meeting but it was immediately dismissed by a majority, so we didn’t even discuss any possibilities,” he said.
“Perhaps in the future we may see dedicated dog beaches but it’s not acceptable or viable yet.”
But fellow councillor and Green party member Linda Leblanc said that the council isn’t listening to what people want.
“We have a large number of non-Cypriots living here, many of whom own a dog and want to be able to take them for walks on the coast or on a beach,” she said. “A few years ago the municipality put up signs stating ‘dogs not allowed’ all over the coastline and beaches, effectively blocking off areas all over the coats and began fining people. It caused uproar.”
Leblanc noted that the possibility of a dedicated dog beach in Peyia needs to be properly researched. It would need to incorporate easy access and a water supply she said.
“There are big problems with people not clearing up dog waste in Peyia and dog owners should be responsible at all times.”
In the meantime, Andreas Chrysanthou, who heads the Paphos municipality beaches committee, said a dog beach within the town’s boundaries would be impossible. He suggested further along the coastline as a better option.
“In other countries such as Australia, they have endless coastline and ample place to provide such a beach. We don’t have that luxury in Paphos municipality. Also, we are trying to concentrate on improving the quality and services for swimmers,” he said.
He added that there are only six designated bathing beaches within the Paphos municipality boundaries while establishing a dog beach in an unsuitable area would cause serious problems.
“We only have dangerous areas left and it would be terrible if dogs entered the sea and never returned.”
Chrysanthou insisted that although there are ‘dogs not allowed’ signs along the coastal path which runs from the castle in Kato Paphos towards the lighthouse beach (Faros) and close to the protected UNESCO site, dogs are not actually banned from the path, only from the beach nearby.
“Of course people are allowed to walk their dogs here, but they will be fined if they don’t pick up after their animals.This is the actual meaning behind these notices.”
The fine for not clearing up after your dog is 85 euros.
But the lack of coastline is no excuse, according to Leblanc.
“The public needs to voice what they want in order for solutions to be found,” she said. “Allowing dog beaches is the law and at present local authorities are ignoring these rights.”
To sign the petition go to: – http://goo.gl/V7mNEg
The Ayia Napa dog beach is called Louma and is located opposite the Waterworld water park in Ayia Thekla.