By Nikolaos Prakas
A Facebook campaign calling for a massive group dog walk in Athalassa park in Nicosia went live on Tuesday as an act of defiance over a ban on the pets imposed by the forestry department.
The move was in response to the ban, and the dismissal by Nicosia court of a €30 fine imposed on a dog owner who defied a park official and entered Athalassa despite his warning there would be a penalty. The forestry department is appealing the decision and says it will continue to fine violators.
“Let’s gather to support the rights of Cyprus residents, animal rights/welfare and general law and order,” said the Facebook call for the group dog walk on Sunday March 29 at 6pm.
“Please bring your poo bags and leashes and let’s take a walk together to demand fairness and logic for a change on this island,” it added.
It said the meeting point would be the entry to the park near the new Ayia Varvara Church on Kyrenia Avenue.
The Green Party on Tuesday also condemned the decision by the forestry department to continue to fine people for walking their dogs in Athalassa.
A statement released by the party said pet owners should have the right to responsibly enjoy walks with a pet as happens in public parks all over the world, “as long as appropriate measures are in place so that pets do not pollute or disturb others.” The party called for a refund for all members of the public who were “unfairly” fined by the forestry department for walking their dogs in Athalassa.
It applauded the decision of the court to rescind the fine imposed on a woman who took her dog for a walk there recently. The fine was thrown out by the court on the grounds that regulation did not specifically mention a ban on dogs.
But the forestry department is appealing the case, official Antonis Horattas told the Cyprus Mail.
“She was walking in a zone not allowing dogs, and was caught by a park official before she entered. However, the woman continued after being warned,” he added.
He said the department was well within its rights to continue banning dogs from the park as they leave waste and can cause disturbances to biodiversity. “Most Cypriots don’t follow sanitary methods and do not clean the dog waste,” said Horattas.
He also said there were clear notifications in the park saying dogs were not allowed, but there were certain trails and parks in which dogs are allowed, and people walking their pets should stick to those.
A 2002 law states that it is up to the discretion of the competent authority where dog walking areas will be designated, and they can charge a fine for violations, including waste that is not properly disposed of and for disturbances to the biodiversity of an area.
For more information https://www.facebook.com/events/705085706284393/