A struggling local animal welfare organisation is selling books to pay for vet services and says its financial situation is as “tragic” as in 2013 economic crisis.

Protecting Animals Without Shelter (Paws) has been holding fundraising book bazaars since 2015, but this year the event is more necessary than ever with the charity struggling to make ends meet amid the consequences of the coronavirus pandemic and the war in Ukraine.

“The aim of this effort is to attempt to pay the large debt we have right now so we can continue our work,” Paws secretary and one of the organisers of the event Evita Charalambous told the Sunday Mail.

Hundreds of people attend PAWS’ Buy a Book, Save a Stray events, held every three or four months. During this coming weekend at Yfantourgeio TheWorkplace, Nicosians will have the chance to choose among 30,000 titles, a large portion of which are in English. Prices range €1 to €5.

“We have everything, from children literature, to young adult, cooking books, old editions and classics but also newly published books,” Charalambous said.

The book bazaar is currently the charity’s main way to raise funds, the Paws’ secretary explained, as online fundraisers have stopped collecting a lot of money after the price increases caused by the pandemic and the war in Ukraine.

“We noticed that public donations have dropped dramatically recently and this is because people have no extra money to give. We are all just trying to survive.

“So, our only means to cover the expenses is through this event,” the animal activist said.

The charity is collaborating with vets across the island who offer a discount, but despite this, Paws often ends up owing money for the neutering and other treatments.

“We always had some debt, but never like this. Since Covid hit, [the debt] has stayed for months and we cannot pay it off. We reached devastating levels. We experienced this before in 2013,” Charalambous said.

The animal welfare organisation has been helping stray dogs and cats find a home since its foundation in 2012. The charity has also been active in neutering campaigns of stray animals while it helps volunteers and other animal welfare organisations with the treatment of sick or injured dogs and cats, including the occasional rabbits and pigeons.

“We do not have a shelter, we work with foster homes and we also try to help people who found a stray and might need financial help to take care of it.”

Another source of income was adoptions of strays abroad, which have also experienced a sharp decline recently as have local adoptions.

Approximately 4,500 stray animals, mainly dogs, found in Cyprus were being adopted in foreign countries every year. In 2022, this number dropped to 3,500 and this year is even worse according to the animal activist.

This is partly due to Brexit but also due to strays being adopted from Ukraine and Romania.

Meanwhile, adoptions in the island have decreased since most people are renting and landlords don’t allow pets, Charalambous said. This has led many people wanting to give away their furry friends in their effort to find cheap housing.

Those factors have increased strays and everything starts with the legislation, which according to Charalambous “is very good, but is not implemented”.

Under the national law for animal welfare, owners are obliged to microchip pets older than three months old and declare if their dog has given birth. Those offences are punishable by a fine while a fine is also provided in the case an owner abandons their pet.

But animal activists have repeatedly complained that even when people are caught violating those provisions, they only receive a warning.

“Authorities must wake up and realise the problem. It is already too late,” she said.

The book sale will take place on March 25-26 at Yfantourgeio TheWorkplace, Nicosia