Dog shelters in Cyprus are overflowing in what some volunteers are calling a crisis caused by the abandonment of canines adopted during Covid as well as complications arising from Brexit.
“The shelters are full to the brim,” said Monica Mitsidou of Dog Rescue Cyprus.
Dogs were adopted by many people “when they shouldn’t have been” during the Covid-19 pandemic, Mitsidou told the Cyprus News Agency, calling the situation “unprecedented”.
During Cyprus’s strictest restrictions aimed at stemming the spread of the coronavirus in 2020 and early 2021, dog walking was one of the few reasons people were allowed to leave their homes.
Evita Charalambous, a volunteer at PAWS (Cyprus Association for the Protection and Care of Animals), blamed the “economic situation” and Brexit for fewer adoptions, saying Cyprus was facing a “massive problem”.
But he also said people fail to neuter their dogs and pointed to the difficulties of finding pet-friendly apartments.
Volunteers say demand for Cypriot dog adoptions has plummeted, particularly in Britain, which is usually a top destination for dogs from the eastern Mediterranean island.
“Brexit has affected us terribly,” said Constantina Constantinou, a volunteer at the non-profit Saving Pound Dogs Cyprus (SPDC).
“The paperwork is much more complicated,” he told AFP, and the cost of traveling dogs has also skyrocketed, making it “much more difficult” for Britons to accept dogs from EU member Cyprus.
More than 3,000 dogs are estimated to be housed in shelters throughout Cyprus.
On the outskirts of the capital Nicosia, a husky with a purple and black collar peered out of his pen at a shelter run by the SPDC as other dogs nearby barked or stamped on the ground.
– “It’s not the solution” –
At another shelter outside Nicosia, run by Simba Animal Aid Cyprus, several dogs played together in a large pen, while others sought shade from the summer heat or fetched water from a bucket.
Simba’s Andreas Tsavellas, 43, said the number of homeless people “is always on the rise” due to “the economic crisis and other factors”.
“We take in five to 20 dogs a week — which are found as strays on the streets by municipalities and then brought to us,” he told AFP.
But he played down the idea that people adopted dogs during the Covid-19 restrictions as an excuse to go out, saying: “We don’t have enough data to prove that.”
“We’ve always had cases of abandonment, not just during the pandemic,” he said.
Volunteers called on authorities to enforce animal welfare laws and curb illegal breeding and dumping, often by hunters.
“The government needs to take serious decisions… and take measures to make sterilization (of dogs) a law,” said the SPDC’s Constantinou, adding that more checks are needed on the importation of canines.
Others said the dog’s current dilemma highlighted a different issue.
“Sending (dogs) abroad was not the solution,” Charalambous from PAWS told the Cyprus News Agency.
“We were essentially sweeping the problem under the rug.”