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Suspended sentence for dog shelter owner who set animals alight

Larnaca Courthouse

A Larnaca court has given a two-month suspended prison sentence to a man who was supposed to run a shelter for dogs for the municipality but instead maltreated, starved and set them alight to get rid of them.

Larnaca municipality had handed over 119 dogs to the shelter between August 2013 and August 2014. When volunteers of the non-profit organisation Argos discovered the place on August 2, 2014, they said they found 20 malnourished animals, others which had died from starvation and a pit with the charred remains of dead dogs.

The volunteer also found there was a lack of food and water and the animals lived in their faeces in the cages. Some bones and raw meat were thrown among the mess.

Mitigating circumstances for the sentence were that the owner admitted his guilt in dousing malnourished animals with petrol and setting them alight. He would then bury them in a nearby field.

He also claimed he was hospitalised for some of the time, leaving his son to look after the animals.  The man was warned by the court that if he committed another crime he would serve his sentence.

For the time being, he is not officially operating the shelter, according to Stella Stylianou from Argos who is also on the district animal welfare committee of Larnaca.

“When we found the shelter it was closed down and the municipality had stopped cooperating with him,” she said on Wednesday. “We emptied the place and the animals were taken somewhere else.”

She is surprised and disappointed that the NGO, though its volunteers discovered the crime, was never informed about the court case or asked to testify.

Stylianou is also not convinced that the mitigating circumstances justify a suspended sentence. “So he admitted his guilt and didn’t waste the time of the court,” she said, “but what about being in hospital? When you have so many live animals in your care, you should arrange to look after them. What sort of logic is this?”

“I believe they let people who commit animal offences off lightly, and this gives the wrong message to society. The state does not see animal cruelty as a crime,” she concluded.

The head of the Animal Party Kyriacos Kyriacou commented: “We are disgusted and we need to speed up the process to have a punishment in line with the crime. What is the point in a punishment when it is suspended? We are going to speak to the ministry about this and the attorney-general.”

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