It is difficult not to feel sympathy for the Paphos animal shelter that has threatened to let loose some 1,500 animals in its care due to the overwhelming and frankly shocking cost of keeping them alive and well.
The problem of dumping pets and overflowing shelters goes back decades and yet even with microchipping, which has been around for years, it appears no real inroads have been made, as is evident by the plight of the Paphos shelter.
What is really needed is a more coordinated system of enforcement. For instance, once a dog is microchipped, the local municipality should be notified by the veterinary services and the owners chased down to obtain a licence.
Nicosia municipality, for instance, will not renew a licence unless a dog is chipped and has a medical book which shows it has received its shots. Also, they will not strike a dog from their database without a death certificate from a vet.
There are of course a lot of municipalities in Cyprus that may not be as stringent, especially in rural areas.
The main problem is how to get a dog into the system in the first place. If it is bought from a pet shop, it should be easy to notify the relevant authorities from that point. Ditto if a dog is imported. With today’s technology, there is no excuse. This leaves those who buy unregistered dogs or puppies from other people where authorities are unaware of their existence and have no means of finding out.
Do all vets check dogs for microchips and what do they do when someone brings an unregistered pet? Ignore it or inform the authorities?
A stringent system employing all of these safeguards, enforceable through data sharing, could work with a bit of willingness from everyone down the chain. Even if every irresponsible owner is not caught, it could drastically cut down on the number of dogs ending up in shelters.
What is shameful is that it even has to come to that level of enforcement, and that is the crux of the matter because the sheer number of strays being taken care of at the Paphos shelter – only one of many – shows that this lack of responsibility is not a matter of a few isolated cases involving bad pet owners. The numbers indicate that the problem is endemic.
Throwing more and more money at shelters every year to feed an ever-growing number of abandoned animals is not going to solve the problem in the long term. For now, enforcement is the key and the mechanisms are there. As far as educating people on responsible pet ownership is concerned, it seems a few more decades will be needed.