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Hotels catering to animal-loving tourists

The Columbia Beach resort started cat shelters in the hotel grounds almost a decade ago and operate the Columbia Cat Care Project

Working with animal welfare groups to help improve lives of stray cats and dogs

By Bejay Browne

Hotels are catering to animal-loving tourists by teaming up with animal welfare charities and launching programmes to improve the lives of stray dogs and cats.

With Cyprus’ stray cat and dog population estimated at around 200,000 to 250,000, initiatives to keep those numbers down are clearly welcomed by animal welfare groups.

Just last week, a couple of these more recent cat initiatives at Aphrodite Hills hotel and Columbia Beach resort were featured in the UK’s Telegraph newspaper.

Paphos-based animal charity Animal Rescue Cyprus featured in the newspaper for its cooperation with Aphrodite Hills hotel where feeding stations and a sort of ‘cat hotel’ have sprung up under the watchful eye of manager Nicholas Kittis, said the charity’s Oana Bodnaras.

Animal Rescue Cyprus has enjoyed a long-standing relationship with the resort.

“For a long time we have trapped, neutered and returned the cats from the area. There are a lot there and they have embraced the cats. They are creating ‘Kittis cat hotel’, named after the manager, and have built special cat houses for them to sleep in, in certain areas and feeding stations as well.”

Bodnaras said that children and tourists enjoy visiting the cats and that the charity hopes more hotels will follow suit.

“Cyprus is a popular holiday destination, so our overall aim is that all sorts of establishments will become more and more pet friendly.”

Animal Rescue Cyprus has also teamed up with five-star luxury hotel Almyra – the first pet friendly hotel in Paphos complete with dog park – to hold a dog adoption day in May.

The Almyra approached the charity to hold a double event. One is their annual dog party where the public is encouraged to bring their dogs to the hotel dog park. The second is a dog adoption day.

Bodnaras said dogs from the shelter will be special guests at the event where the public will be able to adopt them, sponsor them or other dogs at the shelter.

“This is a great chance to find the dogs a lovely home and an important event for us, like other similar occasions, to raise awareness of the work we do and the plight of unwanted animals in Cyprus.”

The shelter currently has around 500 dogs and puppies looking for homes as well as cats, donkeys, rabbits, horses and goats.

Almyra hotel manager, Radu Mitroi, told the Sunday Mail that the hotel decided to hold an adoption day as they recognise the issue of shelter dogs on the island and wanted to do something to help.

“It’s very important for us to be involved in such actions as we have to live together in synergy on the island, people and animals, side by side. We must do what we can in order to assist and make it happen,” he said.

The hotel became dog friendly last year.

“People are traveling with their dogs which are part of their family, so this is an added value we wanted to provide for our guests as a unique experience. We also built a designated dog park at the hotel.”

Almyra spoils pets with VID, a “Very Important Dog” service. Play dates in the dog park and a special menu for discerning dogs are all available.

The hotel’s dog park has a designated fenced dog run area, walkways, lawns, a water station and an obstacle course and dogs can run free here. There is also room service for dogs, the menu includes five main courses and two desserts!

Another animal welfare charity has long been aware of how animal-loving tourists can help stray dogs and cats in Cyprus. Paphos charity, Paws, joined forces with the Aldiana hotel in Larnaca many years ago, in a bid to rehome many of the district’s unwanted dogs in new homes in Germany.

A large number of the shelter’s dogs find new homes in Germany through the work of the facility’s sister charity, Zypern Hunde.

“Most of the holiday makers staying at this hotel are from Germany and they let us ‘attach’ a dog as their luggage and they accompany them on the flight home back to Germany where the dogs are rehomed. The dogs need to be accompanied on the trip and the arrangement works well,” shelter manager, Matthew Harris told the Sunday Mail.

In return, the animal charity supports the hotel with any stray dogs they encounter. Paws will take the animals to their shelter in Achelia, near Paphos airport, with the aim of finding them homes. The facility cares for around 150 abandoned, rescued and abused dogs.

The shelter has to rehome as many dogs as possible to keep functioning on a daily basis, said Harris. They exist solely on donations, fund-raising, sponsorship and money raised through their charity shop.

Dogs remain at the shelter for around one to three years on average before they find homes and the shelter does not euthanise any healthy dogs.

The second hotel to feature in the Telegraph is the Columbia Beach resort in Pissouri Bay. They started cat shelters in the hotel grounds almost a decade ago and operate the Columbia Cat Care Project (CCCP) with the main aim of neutering and vaccinating the cats, ensuring that they are well-fed and groomed.

The hotel blog notes that witnessing the ever-increasing number of cats on the island – with no place to formally call home – Columbia Hotels and Resorts felt inspired to do what they could to aid the cats’ healthy living and also protect the environment.

They say that guests may support the CCCP project in a number of ways, firstly by not feeding the cats around the grounds or at any of the restaurants to help maintain their daily routine.

Guests may also become a ‘Godparent’, take part in the name a cat programme, or officially adopt one of the project’s cats, ‘taking more than just memories of Columbia home’.

Bodnaras said it would be fantastic if more hotels in Cyprus were pet friendly, undertook similar schemes and held adoption days.

“It would be nice to see more pets accepted in shops and coffee shops, under the right circumstances.”

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