By Andria Kades
Animal welfare supporters are seeking to shut down a horse carriage service available on the Limassol seafront and marina, claiming that the horses are being cruelly treated.
The petition, signed by 1,433 people, is addressed to Limassol municipality and calls on the local authority to stop the service “permanently and give these horses the freedom that they deserve”.
Signed by individuals across Cyprus and the UK, Norway and as far away as the US and New Zealand, they want to put a stop to the service they are branding as “torture”.
“There is no way that cities, with their exhaust fumes, hard road surfaces, and busy traffic patterns can provide a humane environment for a carriage horse,” said Pascale Tabet who is behind the petition.
Angelos Panagi, who has been offering the horse drawn carriage service since 2014, said he was totally perplexed when he first heard of the petition.
“These people don’t know if the horse is well or not. They’re specially trained for this and if I saw them tired I would be the first to stop and let them rest or call it a day.”
Panagi says the service was a way to have his horses exercise and cover some of his expenses.
“I wouldn’t just have any horse or a pony. Of course, this is done with care,” he said.
“These horses are like my family. I would never hurt them.”
Head of the Animal Party Kyriakos Kyriakou acknowledged that the use of horses both for pulling carriages and as police horses is widespread in modern cities the world over, but added he was concerned over the lack of oversight in Cyprus.
“The rules abroad are very strict and authorities are very stringent with licences,” he said.
Kyriakou’s concerns lie with authorities – namely the municipality and the veterinary services – who he said need to carry out inspections to avoid a repeat of the situation in Larnaca last year where two operators had their licences revoked.
This came after veterinary services and local authorities found they were not adhering to the contract agreement which required them to provide comfortable stabling for the horses.
Limassol municipality told the Sunday Mail that anyone wishing to offer a horse drawn carriage service needs to send a letter stating their intent and begin the process of applying for a licence.
Panagi however says he sent them a letter back in 2014 when he started but never received an answer and went ahead and started his business. Later he received a letter saying they bore no responsibility for anything that went wrong.
“No one tried to stop me or do anything. Policemen there didn’t have any problems because they could see I wasn’t harming anything or anyone.”