Since the beginning of the year, the Animal Police investigated 57 criminal cases, head of the department Vyron Vyronos said on Sunday.

He said the number of cases of animal cruelty and even the killing of animals has shown a “frightening” rise.

This, despite the strict penalties – as much as a year in prison or a €12,000 fine.

“These penalties are increased if someone behaves similarly a second time. We have had criminal convictions that were suspended but we call on citizens to report such cases to the local stations, or to the duty officers, or to the neighborhood police officer,” he said to Cyprus Times.

He said while incidents of abuse and mistreatment of animals are not new, they are now being reported, with a consequent increase in the number of cases coming to light.

“Our goal is to educate and create a new mindset in the public,” Vyronos said.

An amount has been secured form the state press and information office for an enlightenment campaign, he added.

He also said the police leadership is sensitive to the issue and more officers will be transferred to the Animal Police if needed.

In the latest incident, a dog was shot and killed in Ormidia on Tuesday morning, with the owner filing an official complaint to the police.

He reported that the dog was found dead inside the covered parking area of his house.