By Bejay Browne
PEYIA residents are organising against the nuisance of barking dogs, which they say are not only affecting their wellbeing but also impacting short and long term property rentals in the area.
The issue has lit Paphos internet forums on fire recently and some renters are now insisting on having a ‘get out’ clause written into their leases to cover them when they think the barking is so out of hand that they have to move.
Residents – dozens have complained to the municipality – say they have had enough sleepless nights caused by incessant barking and are calling on the government to enforce the law.
British ex pat resident David Reiling told the Sunday Mail: “Dog owners need to take control of their animals and consider their neighbours. There is no peace at my complex. Many of the homes are empty as they aren’t being rented again because of the noise.”
He said that holidaymakers had also written to property owners saying they would not return due to the nuisance.
Reiling, who lives in lower Peyia, has owned a dog for most of his life, but doesn’t at the moment. He is incensed by a lack of action from the authorities that he has set up a protest group.
He said his home is surrounded by barking dogs. To the front there is one, to the right there are eight dogs locked in a garden all day and further along there are four others. “It’s a nightmare,” he said.
Reiling, said that so far complaints to the municipality and the police had brought no results. He has also written to the ombudswoman.
“We will have to leave if it doesn’t get better, but we can’t break our contract, as there will be financial penalties. We have chosen to live here and paid good money to do so and now I would like to have peaceful enjoyment of my home,” he said.
The campaigner said that a municipal warden has been sent to investigate his complaint but informed him that as the dog owners had the necessary licences, there was nothing he could do.
“It’s not about permits though. It’s about the noise nuisance. We don’t get a proper night’s sleep. “We are woken at three, four, five and six in the morning by dogs barking and baying. They will then howl all day until the owners are back from work,” he said.
Reiling said that he was afraid of approaching the dog owners personally as he has been told that others were threatened with hunting guns in the past. He said that he started the protest website as he believes the only way to change the status quo is to gather support.
“Authorities need to act on the law which Cyprus already has, I’m not trying to change the culture,” he stressed.
An increasing number of residents say they are being denied peaceful use of their home, are trapped in a living hell and are being ignored by the local authorities.
Although most of the complaints made to the local authorities are from non-Cypriot residents, a 56-year-old Cypriot woman living in the area said this was because Cypriots know complaining won’t bring results and so they put up with it.
The woman asked only to be identified as Eleni, as she is fearful of repercussions. She also has had disputes with a particular dog owner in the past whose pets continue to make her life a misery.
She told the Sunday Mail that things had been unbearable for the last five years by continuous barking from a large number of hunting dogs which are being kept on a piece of land next to her home in Peyia.
“I have two small dogs of my own which live in the house with me and I don’t want anything to happen to me or them. The man who keeps these dogs has already shouted at me when I told him that they bark day and night and are disturbing the peace. I close my doors and turn up the TV very loud to try and drown out the noise.”
Eleni, whose property has remained in her family for generations, said she likes to sleep with her windows open during the summer but added that this was impossible due to the barking “which continues for hours on end”. She said a lack of sleep was making her stressed and tearful.
“I have mentioned the problem to some of the staff at the municipality in the past, but nothing has changed. So many people are related to each other in Peyia and they don’t want to make problems for themselves. But the situation here is getting out of hand. Many people are having problems like mine now, and I’m hoping that the foreign residents will be able to do something about it.”
Reiling said it was the owners’ responsibility to control their dogs. Some barking is understandable, he said, but what many people are being subjected to is in on another level entirely.
“They need to take control of their animals and consider their neighbours. People are leaving, holidaymakers are not coming back, the resale value is being affected and people come on holiday for peace and quiet; this problem is affecting rental incomes,” he said.
Peyia councillor Linda Leblanc said people are often fearful of complaining to the municipality as ‘there is no level of confidentiality.’
“I’m aware of many complaints on the issue. The people responsible for dealing with this nuisance are the mayor and the municipal warden, as this is part of his job. We get reports and then nothing happens,” she said.
Leblanc said that an employee of the municipality was one of the worst offenders, raising hunting dogs in a residential area. For the last two years the councillor has been attempting to resolve the situation in a sensitive and friendly way, but so far nothing has changed.
She said she has been to a site with eight or nine dogs, but there was no support from the police or community policeman, giving the impression that some people are above the law “and untouchable”, she said.
“If it was in a deserted area, perhaps a blind eye could be turned, but this in impacting on the quality of people lives and causing health problems as well,” said Leblanc.
The councillor underlined that the complaints about the barking were not just a few isolated incidents. Dozens of residents were complaining. “Even the deputy mayor told us to go to the newspapers about it at a council meeting,” she said.
The new dog law, when enacted, should give local authorities increased power and help to eliminate problems such as those being experienced in Peyia, according to environmental officer at the minister of interior Dr Eleftherios Hadjisterkotis, who helped to draft the new dog law.
Hadjisterkotis said that when the new law receives final parliamentary approval in a few weeks, local authorities will have the tools to be able to deal with situations in a more satisfactory way.
He said: “The local authorities will be able to give an on the spot fine for instances such as incessant dog barking. This will be about €85 for the first time and double that if there is a second instance.”
Hadjisterkotis said that until now, if people were breaking the law the local authority had to call the police to take the person to court which is a complicated and lengthy process and mostly avoided. Cases of this were rare, he said. He said that the new law has taken around three years to draft and all considerations have been taken into account.
“We have listened to opinions and suggestions from all sectors, government departments and services, NGOs and the general public about existing problems concerning the law, such as public nuisance, which could include a lack of respect for neighbours, allowing dogs to defecate on pavements and in front of doors, dogs being allowed to roam free and stray dogs.”
He said that aim was to improve the welfare of the animals and the people who co-exist with them. “If dogs are barking all night it’s creating problems for people who can’t sleep and find it hard to function the next day,” he said.
Hadjisterkotis said that each section of the law carries an appropriate fine and it was currently being examined section by section by the parliamentary environment committee which will take some weeks. It will then go for final approval from parliament, he said.
Protest group: http://peyiabarkingdogsnuisanceprotestgroup.webs.com/