Developments in Animal Welfare 2008 – 2019
This informative update on animal welfare developments in Cyprus has been written by Stella Stylianou, World Animal Day Ambassador.
Since 2008, Cyprus Voice for Animals (the Union of Animal Welfare Organisations) has been petitioning the government to solve many chronic problems.
Below is a list of the fantastic progress that was made for the animals during the period 2008 – 2013 (onset of the recession which climaxed in 2013).
- Ban on visiting circuses using animal acts
- Ban on live animals used as trophies (prizes) on game stalls at fairs
- Spaying/neutering feral cat programme
- Increase of the annual government funding for NGO’s from €30,000 to €50,000
- The preparation of a check-list for the government veterinary services to use during animal welfare inspections
- In cooperation with the police and the local authority, the preparation and distribution of a circular outlining the provisions of the law on the penalties for poisoning animals
- The preparation of guidelines to be followed by the police and government veterinary services on the procedure for investigating the poisoning of an animal
With the climax of the recession in 2013, the government suspended all animal welfare programmes, the first being the feral cat spaying/neutering programme and second, the reduction of the annual grant to NGO’s. The following 5 years, from 2013 – 2018, during the office of the then Minister of Agriculture Mr Kougialis, animal welfare was at a standstill and at the bottom of the government’s agenda.
In March 2018 there was a cabinet reshuffle and Dr Costas Kadis was appointed Minister of Agriculture, Rural Development and Environment. Dr Kadis, unlike his predecessor who never entertained the idea of animal welfare during his 5 years in office, took an active role in improving animal welfare and has never refused meetings with our delegation to hear our petitions and has actually helped push them through.
Following several meetings with Minister Kadis over the course of the year, it was mutually agreed that we would kick-off with some of the many outstanding problems in order of priority, solve those before moving on to the next list. Our discussions initially centred on the following:
- Cat Sterilization Programme This programme was suspended because of the money crisis in Cyprus in the previous years. Following discussions with the new minister, Dr Kadis managed to reinstate the programme and announced the launch of its 2019 implementation plan totalling €75,000.
- Spot videos The government proceeded with the production of 5 spot videos highlighting, abandonment, microchipping, sterilisation, adopting from shelters and abuse due to tethering and caging.
- Traces Abolish or drastically reduce the cost of Traces for Animal Organisations rehoming animals abroad from €34,17 to €10. This has now been approved and awaiting implementation following its insertion in the government gazette.
- Free dog microchipping Government campaign 2019 – Although microchipping has been mandatory since 2002, relevant authorities have not enforced it and many dogs still remain unmarked or, if marked, not entered on the government central database. As microchipping is quite expensive, the government has therefore offered free microchipping in the hope that the public will take advantage. The campaign is ongoing until the end of March 2020. If any dogs are found unmarked at the end of the campaign, heavy fines will be imposed, provided the dog law fines go through that is.
- Microchip database It is now mandatory for private vets implanting microchips to enter them electronically on the government’s central register.
- Regulations covering breeders, shelters, pounds and boarding facilities. These Regulations will cover mandatory licensing, minimum kennel dimensions required for these facilities and, in the case of breeders, stipulate the age an animal can be bred and at what age breeding should cease.
- Improving facilities grant Following a proposal by the Minister of Agriculture, the Council of Ministers approved a grant of €100,000 towards the improvement of NGO shelter facilities to bring them in line with the new regulations.
- Pet Shops – New regulations awaiting approval.
- Dog Law revisions Now with parliament awaiting approval – these will be outlined in a later blog.
- Animal Welfare Law 9/11/19 – Following a proposal submitted by the Minister of Agriculture, Dr Kadis, important new measures to strengthen the animal welfare framework were approved by the Council of Ministers. With the new decision, the Animal Welfare and Protection Law is amended as follows:
– New prohibitions are introduced to improve the living conditions of pets. In particular, the following shall be prohibited:
(a) Permanent dog tethering
(b) The keeping or isolation of a dog or cat on balconies, terraces and rooftops.
– The financial penalties that may be imposed by the Court, together with the possibility of imposing a prison sentence, in the event of a person being convicted of animal abuse or neglect, are significantly increased. Specifically:
(a) In the event of a first conviction, the financial penalty which the court may impose is increased from €1,700 to €10,000.
(b) In the event of a second or subsequent conviction, the penalty shall be increased from €3,400 to €20,000.
(c) In the event of a conviction for obstructing the duties or violating the instructions of the Veterinary Services or the Police Authorities, the fine shall be increased from €850 to €5,000.
- Animal Welfare Committees 09.11.19 – The Pancyprian and Provincial Animal Welfare Committees’ composition is strengthened, with powers to participate actively in the formulation of new policies and measures to be able to effectively assist the work of the Veterinary Services and Police Authorities in the control and enforcement of legislation.
The amending bill approved by the Council of Ministers will be submitted to the House of Representatives for voting.
- Animal Welfare Police – Since 2008 we have relentlessly lobbied government for the creation of this special force and, every time animal cruelty came to light, we bombarded the government with letters, protests and photographs of hundreds of suffering animals with very few cases even making it to court and, if they did, the penalties were so lenient that they were not a deterrent. Finally, the newly appointed Minister of Justice announced that they would go ahead with implementation of this special force. On the 02.10.19 the establishment of the Animal Police force was approved by the Council of Ministers, recognizing the need to create an effective institution that can meet society’s demand for the protection of animals and the punishment of those who abuse them.
The bill amends the Police (Am.) Law of 2019 to establish this unit, whose members will be appointed by the Chief of Police and receive appropriate training on a regular basis.
The bill was drafted after consulting with animal organizations and other bodies. Following today’s approval by the Cabinet, the bill will be tabled in the House of Representatives for a vote.
- Hunting Bill – Important decisions regarding hunting with dogs were taken on the 19/04/19. Specifically, it was decided to immediately revise the legislation on hunting licenses, so that the issuance of a dog license to hunt would require the identification of the dog (microchip name and number) accompanying each hunter. It is noted that today a hunting dog license is issued without reference to specific details of the dogs accompanying each hunter. At the same time, there will be penalties for hunters accompanied by unmarked and unregistered dogs.
- Cyprus Voice for Animals has been tasked in the preparation of a protocol on various procedures that the relevant authorities will follow while enforcing the animal welfare law. The Minister of Agriculture stated that this was a priority and asked us to proceed in its preparation immediately, in cooperation with the police and the government Veterinary Services who will be responsible in implementing the Animal Welfare & Protection Act.
- NGO Annual grant A 50% increase in the annual grant to Organisations (from €50,000 – €100,000). This amount is divided amongst those registered organisations that submit their application, activity report and annual audits.
- Dolphinariums – A ban on the detention of marine mammals (dolphins, whales and seals) in captive conditions such as aquariums, artificial tanks etc.
- Caging – Following a study prepared by CVA on the detrimental effects both physically and mentally on tethering and caging animals, the government has asked us to lobby MP’s and get them to support the proposal in parliament when it goes for discussion and approval. The upcoming parliament discussion is tabled for the 8th January 2020.
The Animal Welfare & Protection Act does not state that an animal has to be restricted in any way or form. In fact the introductory clause clearly states that… ‘Animals must be kept according to their physiological and ethological needs’ therefore; one of our arguments to get the approval for the ban on cages to be clearly stated in the Law is that it is already self-evident, according to the above clause.
Cyprus WAD Ambassador