By Evie Andreou
ANIMAL rights activists and local business people almost got into a fist fight on Sunday when a repeat protest took place outside a Protaras hotel where a stray dog was rescued after being thrown into a carton crusher.
Some of the local people, upset by the negative publicity the resort received as a result of the actions of former employees of the hotel, threw eggs at the protestors who gathered at the gates of the Anastasia Hotel, operated by the Tsokkos Group.
A week earlier, animal rights supporters had staged a protest in front of the hotel, but the stray dog died on Thursday, fuelling further protests.
After Sunday’s incident, matters got out of control until police intervened.
Billy’s story was the last drop for the activists who deal with cases of animal abandonment and abuse on a daily basis.
“We’ve had enough. We protest for Billy and for every Billy. We are frustrated, we all are volunteers, and we steal time from our jobs and our families to do the work of the authorities,” Vicky Nicolaou, chairwoman of the Nicosia Dog Shelter, told the Cyprus Mail.
Nicolaou said that more than 400 people took part in the second protest and that they wanted to make sure that justice will be served. They also demanded that an animal police force be set up immediately and that penalties for offenders be raised.
“We want state officials to answer our calls just for two days and listen to what we hear every day, how many animals are being abandoned and abused,” Nicolaou said.
Present at the protest were members of the Greens party including its chairman Giorgos Perdikis.
Eleni Chrysostomou, spokeswoman of the party, said that the party is urging the government to put into force the 2012 act on the creation of an animal police force and to immediately enforce the existing legislation on animal welfare.
“We have legislation and it is a strict one, it is not being enforced,” she said.
Even though the hotel denounced the employees’ actions as “inhumane and intolerable” and fired them after the incident, the reaction of one of the Tsokkos family members and the statements of a lawyer thought to be linked to the hotel chain, enraged the protesters further.
In his statement, which the lawyer posted on his Facebook page, his comments on the reactions to Billy’s abuse and fate were deemed as insulting and provocative.
The lawyer told the Cyprus Mail that he is not working for the hotel and that he was expressing his personal opinion.
“Of course I condemn such actions, I too have had pets all my life, and I just said that we should focus on other issues, such as the unemployment instead of what happened to this dog,” he said.
He said that the second comment he posted, which was widely used by everyone on Facebook to slander him, was written in anger after he saw curses and swears against his family, but realised it was a mistake and erased it within twenty minutes.