Cyprus Mail

Animal abuse investigations on the rise

By Evie Andreou

INVESTIGATIONS of animal abuse cases have risen from a handful in recent years to 44, Justice Minister Ionas Nicolaou said after a meeting with the head of the Animal Party Kyriacos Kyriacou.

Nicolaou said that despite problems, “a fairly good job” is being done the last couple of years in connection to animal abuse cases.
“Since 2014, we investigated 44 cases, compared to previous years when these cases did not exceed a handful,” Nicolaou said.

He added that last year, 25 cases had been investigated, and in 2015, until today, about 19 are under investigation, some of which have already reached court.

This proves the level of awareness within Cypriot society and even more so the changes that have been made within the police, Nicolaou said.

“The system applied since 2004, when two police officers in every district have been responsible with monitoring and investigating such cases, but also the involvement of the neighbourhood watch, seems to be effective and produced good results,” he said.

He added that the setting up of ‘animal police’, which is the suggestion of some groups, would not produce the same results as it would only involve a small number of officers, whereas today more officers are involved, making the effort more effective.

“Every citizen must participate in this effort by informing or reporting to the authorities to ensure that animals are entitled to protection, appropriate and proportionate to our culture,” Nicolaou said.
He added that his ministry is in anticipation of a report drafted by the Animal Party on penalties against animal abuse perpetrators based on cases in other countries.

Earlier in the year, the Supreme Court dismissed the appeal of 66-year-old Andreas Ioannou who was sentenced to two months imprisonment in March on charges of animal abuse, negligence and assaulting police officers, after he was arrested for tying his dog to a car and dragging it to its death.

Despite Nicolaou’s praise of the successes of the police, nothing would have happened if animal welfare activists had not increased pressure, especially after the ordeal of Billy, the stray dog that was thrown alive into a cardboard crusher by two hotel employees last June and died two weeks later.

After the incident, the state had found itself cornered by pubic outcry as it was clear that legislation was not adequately implemented and tolerated such incidents.

Billy’s fate was the beginning of a public debate about animal welfare and the need to better enforce relevant legislation, as well as raising awareness against animal abuse, which urged more and more people to report such incidents and demand that justice is served.
In February cooperation between the Animal Party and police resulted in the first ever ex-parte decree issued by a Cypriot court to remove a dog from its owner after reports of negligence.

But the picture is far from perfect as animal abuse cases are not uncommon, urging the Animal Party in cooperation with the Green Party and several animal welfare groups, to organise a protest earlier in the week outside the Presidential Palace against cruelty to animals and “government indifference”.

According to the organisers, the government, veterinary services, local authorities and police remain indifferent.
Earlier last month, 17 dogs were left to die of starvation, while daily puppies and kittens are being abandoned in open fields or other people’s back yards.

At the protest, members of organisations sat in cages, or with chains around their necks imitating the cruelty to animals. Some even painted blood on them to appear wounded and to show how animals are still being treated.

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