Ombudswoman Maria Stylianou-Lottides on Tuesday blasted the veterinary services for negligence or failure to take the necessary steps as the competent agency to examine complaints regarding the uncontrolled importation of dogs into the Republic of Cyprus.

The issue was brought to her attention by Voice for Animals, the federation of animal welfare NGOs after a woman said that the veterinary services failed to act following a complaint she had made in 2022.

Specifically, she reportedly wrote to the agriculture ministry in March 2022 to inform the minister about the issue of dog importation and suggest he requests information from the veterinary services, namely the daily data recorded at customs at Larnaca airport.

Two months later, the ministry wrote back, telling the complainant that her letter had been forwarded to the veterinary services, so that they may examine her concerns and respond accordingly, adding that a meeting may also be called on the issue.

After receiving no response, in March 2023 the complainant wrote to the veterinary services asking for an update, and whether a meeting had taken place.

In August, she received a response with the veterinary services denying having received any instructions from the ministry and calling its input “unnecessary” in matters that concern the agency’s competencies.

“Ministry staff are not qualified in veterinary medicine, or trained accordingly to manage any matters that require a veterinary point of view,” it said, adding that the fact the complainant went to the ministry first created unnecessary bureaucracy.

In October 2023, in a letter to the veterinary services director and the ombudswoman’s office, the agriculture minister rubbished claims he never gave any instructions, saying that he had in fact done so in November 2022, when he’d asked for better handling of procedures for veterinary and customs controls at the points of entry and permits for the importation of companion animals.

The agency’s director stayed adamant that no meeting was called and said that the complainant should have gone directly to them and not to the ministry. He also said that the delayed response was only due to an error in the agency’s post which resulted in the complaint not being forwarded.

In a letter published Tuesday, Lottides said that this omission conflicts with the agency’s obligation to act within a reasonable time, so that its intervention is timely and effective and prevents the creation or consolidation of illegal situations.

At the same time, she underlined that as a public service, the veterinary services “does not have a discretion, but an obligation, to act and to exercise its powers, for the purpose of protecting the public interest”.

Finally she recommended that the veterinary services, in consultation with the ministry, “proceed without further delay with a thorough investigation of the complaints, and to take the necessary and appropriate measures to deal with the matter,” keeping Voice for Animals informed.