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Is Cyprus ‘dog-friendly’ now?

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On an island known for its mistreatment of animals, will attitudes ever change? ALIX NORMAN meets the pup whose journey has started a local revolution

 

There’s a law that strictly prohibits owners from abandoning their dogs. Dock a dog’s tail or ears, and you can be fined €16,000. Breed for canine aggression, and enjoy a year in prison.

Sadly, this isn’t a Cyprus law.

Instead, it’s part of Austria’s Animal Welfare Act, which lays out in detail how pets must be cared for.

Switzerland has similar edicts, and goes so far as to require aspiring owners to take an extensive practical test before being permitted a pup. And Germany cares so much that not only is there a Christmas pet adoption ban, but there’s a law discouraging owners from leaving their dogs at home alone for too long.

“In much of Europe, people are actively prohibited from harming their dogs in any way,” says Christina Georgiou. “And to further animal care, owners are encouraged to take their dogs with them wherever they go. Hungary permits dogs in most restaurants and cafés; London allows well-behaved dogs on the Underground; and Switzerland is fine with you bringing your dog on the bus.

I wish Cyprus was this way. There is,” she adds, “similar legislation on the island. But it’s rarely enforced. How many times have you seen a dog chained and left for days at a time? Many, I bet.”

An ardent shelter volunteer, the director of the award-winning documentary The Stray Story, and the daughter of a vet, Christina is an expert on animal welfare. She’s seen the best – and the worst – of owners; the most loving and most horrendous treatment.

Her own rescue pup Leo had been abandoned three times before Christina fostered and then adopted him. And it’s with him that the story really begins…

“I was only meant to foster Leo for a few days,” she explains. “It was purely to get him off death row and, hopefully, find him a forever home. Which we did, within 10 days: I drove him all the way to Paphos, spent an hour with him and his new family, and then left with a breaking heart.”

But just 20 minutes later, the family called Christina back. “‘No, we don’t want him,’ they told me. ‘Take him away.’

“I knew that a decision made that quickly and lightly did not bode well for the already anxious Leo – this was not the family for him. I turned straight round and drove back.”

christina and her rescue dog, leo now photo by marios andreou
Christina and Leo now. Photo: Marios Andreou

Leo has been with Christina ever since. A loving, bouncy retriever mix, he was initially highly traumatised by past experiences.

“Dogs who have been abandoned are often quite anxious,” says Christina. “That’s fine with me; I’m happy to take Leo everywhere. But what wasn’t fine was the number of places I couldn’t take him – the number of restaurants and parks and cafés who refused him entry.”

Unlike other European nations, Cyprus is not known for its dog-friendly venues.

“In 2015, I was in the area and decided to eat at Wagamama,” says Christina. “As always, I had Leo with me, so I politely asked if I could have a table outside where we wouldn’t disturb anyone. The answer was a resounding ‘NO! We don’t want dogs here!’ So I left,” she says. “And boy was I angry!”

But instead of venting her ire, Christina decided to effect positive change.

“I’d been to other places around the island and had a similar reaction. Yet leaving negative reviews does nothing constructive. What was needed here, I felt, was a grass roots community effort…”

The very same day, Christina launched the Facebook page Dog-friendly venues in Cyprus.

“The idea was that everyone on the island who had found a dog-friendly venue could share it on one page. This would help people know where their pets were permitted, and show local businesses that welcoming dogs meant increased custom and positive feedback. And in the long-run, the hope was that this could change how dogs are treated in Cyprus.”

The page quickly gained momentum. Within a month, several hundred followers were posting regularly. Christina added regulations, made the group non-profit, and started an online list collating all of Cyprus’ dog-friendly venues.

Then, in 2018, a local tv show mentioned the page.

leo on death row
Leo when he was on death row

“Overnight, followers soared. It felt wonderful!” says Christina. “The more of us there were, the more places we could find. Then more dog-friendly venues would spring up. And attitudes might start to change!”

When Christina started the list, just a few places in Cyprus were ‘dog-friendly’. Now, eight years on, the number of venues listed stands at nearly 400.

“Volunteers regularly skim all posts and add new places to our growing list,” says Christina. “What started with Tiger, Dimco, and the Cyta Shop has now grown to include cafés, restaurants, bars, accommodation, shops and beaches!”

Jumbo officially allowed dogs last year. “A huge win!” says Christina.

Peyia alone has seven dog-friendly restaurants. Paphos’ Annabelle, Anassa and Aphrodite Beach Hotels all welcome dogs. Limassol’s Park Beach and Paralimni’s Capo Bay are on the list, as are the Petit Palais in Platres, and Kalopanayiotis’ Casale Panayiotis.

In the last few months, Limassol’s Nana’s Brunch, Paphos’ Pinguino Café, and Larnaca’s Super Home Centre have come out as dog-friendly venues. And the list, says Christina, is growing by the day…

“Getting dogs welcomed in more places across Cyprus can fundamentally change how people treat animals. It sends a clear message that our dogs are more than just pets; they’re part of our community.

“This attitude shift can then pave the way for stronger, more effectively enforced animal welfare laws. And that,” she adds, looking fondly at her rescue pup, “is really the ultimate goal.”

As for Leo? Well, he’s oblivious to the revolution he started!

“He’s happy, healthy and much less anxious now,” smiles Christina. “In fact, the other day, the two of us went back to Wagamama. Eight years after the rejection that launched this journey, Leo was warmly welcomed and given his own bowl of water. How’s that for grassroots change?!”

 

For more information, visit the Facebook page Dog-friendly venues in Cyprus

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