A visit to Dali dog shelter in Nicosia reveals an ugly truth in Cyprus where thousands of canines become homeless and volunteer groups are desperately fighting a culture war to raise awareness.
In an exclusive report in daily Phileleftheros, Despina Psyllou writes about the need to cultivate a new attitude in society as well as push for legislation where dog owners face consequences of their actions.
Irresponsible dog owners and lack of action by state authorities are the root cause of the problem, which puts thousands of dogs out of a loving home, according to Monica Mitsidou, a member of D.O.G. Rescue Cyprus.
An estimated 170,000 dogs are homeless in Cyprus and there are around 150 dogs at the dog shelter at any given time directly under the care of the volunteer group.
“Dogs are abandoned on weekends and holidays, without much thought about the fact that municipal workers do not work those times and volunteers are not there 24 hours a day to take the dogs into the shelter,” said Mitsidou.
But the problem in managing the homeless dog shelter crisis does not begin at the shelter.
Many horrifying accounts of how dogs end up in a dog shelter include stories of inhumanity and sheer brutality.
She also said that many times volunteers found dogs chained outside the gates of the shelter, some of them dead or about to die from a heat stroke. Seven dogs were one time thrown inside the shelter area over the fence, facing the risk of being devoured alive by hungry shelter dogs.
Psyllou admitted that she had no idea what dogs went through before they ended up at the shelter.
“I used to think it was tragic that they have these dogs in cages and behind a fence. I was wrong,” she said, giving a number of horrific stories before dogs made it to Dali.
One time, a dog was left alone and abandoned in a forest, chained to a tree, with its human owners knowing full well it would face certain death from hunger.
There was another case where an irresponsible owner kicked his dog out of the car at a central location inside the city and sped away.
The secretary of D.O.G Rescue Cyprus, volunteer Stalo Papantoniou, says the group was formed following the discovery of the Dali shelter, completely by accident, by member Marilena Peppou, who has been president of the non-governmental organisation since 2011.
The Dog Pound for Stray Dogs in Dali is required by law to care for the animals for 15 days from the day they are caught by a municipal employee. Then, dogs are euthanized legally and lawfully.
The state chooses to fund the death of these dogs, according to Papantoniou, who says authorities invest money in medical bills aimed at putting humans’ best friends down for good.
But since D.O.G. reluctantly began its work with permission by the municipality, they started sharing photos of their shelter dogs online, essentially reducing or eliminating the need for euthanasia.
“Since 2011 when we took action, no dog in our care has been put down,” says Papantoniou.
The shelter dogs are given for adoption with an adoption package, which includes blood tests, vaccination, neutering and microchip. No dogs leaves the shelter without an agreement to this package.
But the workload and costs are hitting hard on D.O.G. Rescue Cyprus, which only numbers five members who face even a lot more work during the summer months.
Throughout the year, volunteers are also mounting a campaign to educate the public, especially dog owners to get their dogs fixed. Spaying and neutering, as well as micro chipping, can all contribute to healthier and fewer homeless dogs.
Psyllou said she was received as she arrived at the dog shelter, with a lot of barking, licking, sniffing, and jumping up and down.
But there were also many melancholic eyes looking straight at her, wondering if anyone would finally care to show them love and make their lives complete again.
(Photos by Stefanos Kouratzis)