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Bill approved to regulate dog ownership and strays

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Cabinet approved on Tuesday the amended bill on dog ownership and strays which had been sent by the House back for vetting due to the many changes made after exhaustive discussion.

According to Interior Minister Socratis Hasikos, the bill aims at “putting an end to the uncontrollable situation as regards stray dogs”.

“This is a huge issue which has been plaguing communities for decades,” Hasikos said.

“There was no order, nor legislation in place on who bears responsibility for dog licences, who has the authority and responsibility to report those who keep dogs without a licence, to assess how dangerous an animal is,” Hasikos said. The bill, he said, will regulate all these matters.

He added that the bill stipulates that the local government bears the responsibility for the creation of dog shelters, and in case communities cannot afford one there is provision for the creation of regional shelters, built with state aid.

The bill, Hasikos said, also regulates all issues concerning dog ownership, including the maximum number of dogs that can be kept.

The bill was initially approved by the cabinet in September 2014 and was sent for discussion to the House Environment committee, but due to the many changes made it was sent back for vetting in January 2016. After scrutiny, the state legal services sent it back to the House committee which deemed that as it was heavily edited the cabinet had to re-approve it.

Discussion of the bill at the House environment committee was very eventful as local authorities kept insisting that they couldn’t afford to enforce the legislation, animal welfare NGOs were failing to coordinate, while the committee chair despaired with the many diverging views between animal welfare groups, the competent authorities and local authorities.

The bill – that was several years in the making – provides for fines for not microchiping a dog, not registering it with local authorities, not keeping medical records, bans on keeping dogs on balconies, roof tops or yards in apartment buildings. It also carries harsh penalties for not cleaning up after a dog in public places, for not having a collar, not writing specific details regarding the owner on the collar, as well as for loud and persistent barking that could potentially disturb neighbours.

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