By Annette Chrysostomou
Back from a holiday in Greece I can’t help comparing the plight of stray dogs over there to the ones in Cyprus. In Greece, dogs are everywhere in the streets, and they have obviously adapted to city life. For a week I found one of them lying in the middle of a busy street at exactly the same spot every day, and everyone just drove around it. And yes, it was still alive after a week!
None of them seem to belong to anybody, but appeared well fed, though in the short time I was there I did not find out who feeds them.
In Cyprus, the situation is very different. Certainly you rarely see strays walking around in cities, though they can be seen on highways and country roads either dead or starving.
What’s different about Greece? It’s possible of course that Greeks love dogs more than Cypriots do, but the main difference is one of law.
In Cyprus, dogs are not allowed to roam the streets, so those abandoned dogs are picked up by municipalities and kept in shelters which don’t have the capacity and resources to house and feed them. And the numbers are staggering. According to estimations by the NGO Cyprus Voice for Animals, around 20,000 healthy or non-healthy stray or abandoned dogs of all ages are killed by euthanasia each year in Cyprus by the authorities due to overpopulation. Those are the ones that haven’t been poisoned, hit by cars or died of starvation.
If this shocks, according to the same survey, the number of abandoned dogs and puppies reaches around 170,000 a year.
And how many people are actually trying to do something about it? Not many and certainly not enough. It’s a daunting task.
One of them is UK-based Eve Moore, from Mirfield, West Yorkshire who aims to home 100 dogs from Cyprus by the end of this year, most of them in the UK. Up to now she has reached 72. How does she do it?
Apart from sheer determination, the operation involves social media. Eve, who is a 19-year-old student at Sheffield Hallam University, takes pictures of dogs in shelters and uploads them on an Instagram account. When people show an interest, she asks them about their info such as their address and the living conditions the dog can expect. She also sets up a Skype call to their homes to see for herself where the dogs go and to talk to the potential owners. Interested persons should also have a Facebook account where they can upload pictures of the dog once it’s been rehomed.
Eve and her group of volunteers organise de-worming, vaccinations, microchipping and blood tests, all of which are needed to transport a dog out of Cyprus. When they are over eight months old they need neutering, and sometimes the volunteers will groom them as well.
All of this involves quite a lot of money. In addition to the vet fees, travel costs are considerable. Added to the flight costs, there are other transport costs. To cover all these, Eve encourages donations from those who adopt the dog but also helps by fundraising as she believes one can’t expect the people who take the dog to pay for everything.
“I’ve always been an animal lover, specifically a dog lover. Ever since I was a child I would tell people that I was going to become a vet, or a member of the RSPCA, or at one point I think I actually told people I was going to become a dog,” she said.
“The aspirations of my childhood have lingered with me in the background for some time, and it wasn’t until I was visiting my father at his home in Cyprus this year that I thought maybe I could actually pursue this.”
She works with other people who have the same goals, and this has created such strong bonds she says it is like having another family.
One problem is that people abroad don’t see why they should get a dog from another country as there are shelters in the UK. But, according to Eve, people simply don’t understand the size of the problem in Cyprus. There is the problem of invisibility as there are few campaigns in Cyprus and, unlike in the UK, little publicity.
Thus, campaigns are needed such as for neutering, and publicity about the shelters which are rarely in the spotlight.
The hardest part remains to be done, which is to change the Cypriot mentality on how to view and treat animals, and this needs education, education and more education, she says.
Eve Moore, email: [email protected]