By Jean Christou
Police have secured 40 convictions for animal abuse and six cases are currently under investigation, Justice Minister Ionas Nicolaou said on Friday.
He said over the last three years 107 cases had been investigated, 63 in the last 18 months alone, which he said, indicated the increased importance that was being given to issues of animal welfare.
Nicolaou, who was speaking at a seminar in Nicosia on animal welfare and the role of the police, said the protection and welfare of animals was a serious social issue for the state and local agencies and also the general public.
“It demonstrates the level of education and culture of a people, and the phenomenon of animal abuse that saw the light of day last year was a disgrace to Cypriot society,” he said.
The minister was referring to a spate of abuse over the last 12 months that included a dog being tied to a moving car, another being thrown into a cardboard crusher and dozens of poisonings in the Limassol district in the space of a month.
He referred to the recent cabinet decision to amend the law, which sets out a myriad of provisions regarding licences, microchipping, dog collars with owner information, as well as other offences for which negligent owners can be penalised.
Nicolaou said the draft law also includes a prohibition on dog fights and the use of any materials related to it. It also prohibits keeping dogs on balconies and rooftops, abandonment and cruelty.
The minister said almost all of the offences listed would be ineligible for extra-judicial action, meaning in the majority an offence would result in prosecution.
“Animal welfare can be ensured only if their keepers become aware of their obligations towards them, and when we talk about animals and their wellbeing we are not only talking about pets,” Nicolaou said. He said the law would also apply to farms and zoos “and any animal that comes under human supervision”.
Since last March the government has been holding consultations agencies and animal welfare organizations, with a view to consolidating and processing the proposals to effectively combat the effects of criminal behavior towards animals and the establishment of an independent body for animal welfare.
Nicolaou also said it was imperative that the public, and especially children, become more aware of the responsibility attached to keeping an animal.
He said community policing had been strengthened to encompass animal welfare and that in each district two police officers had been tasked with being the contact point for animal welfare issues.
“At the same time, we have repeatedly stressed the importance of having a greater awareness among members of the police force and we are constantly training officers on all levels to better respond,” he said, adding that 400 officers had already been trained.
“I think we are progressing steadily in the right direction. However we need, effort and cooperation from all to achieve the changes we seek.”