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Unprecedented rise in dog abandonments

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Cyprus dog shelters are overwhelmed with a daily intake of abandoned canines due to COVID-19 and the cost-of-living crisis, while adoptions from the UK – where the majority go – have plunged due to Brexit, volunteers say.

Volunteers told the Cyprus News Agency Friday there has been an “unprecedented” rise in dog abandonments and called on authorities to enforce legislation on animal welfare and dogs to curb illegal breeding and abandonment.

Monica Mitsidou, a volunteer at Dog Rescue Cyprus, said they always see higher numbers of abandoned dogs during the holidays and hunting seasons, but “this year, it was unparalleled.”

“All shelters are filled to the brim, and volunteers have reached their limits,” she said.

Mitisidou said the “unprecedented” situation is down to the fact that many people adopted dogs “when they shouldn’t have” during the coronavirus pandemic.

During the island’s strict COVID lockdown, when people were confined to their homes, walking the dog was one of the few permitted reasons to venture outdoors.

Volunteers say all the dog shelters are full, as adoptions from abroad have plunged, especially from the UK, where most homeless dogs are given up for adoption.

But the UK has suffered from the same phenomenon, so there is no demand to bring dogs from Cyprus, said Mitisidou.

“During the pandemic, millions of dogs were adopted, which are now being returned to shelters, so people can find a dog in the shelters there (UK), why to bring one from Cyprus, which costs a lot,” Mitsidou said.

A dog’s travel expenses are included in the adoption package that must be paid by the person who wants to adopt.

Another volunteer, Evita Charalambous, at PAWS (Cyprus Association for the Protection and Care of Animals), said people not being able to find a pet-friendly apartment to rent and not neutering their dogs are other reasons for the glut of unwanted dogs.

She said now that adoptions from abroad have plunged, Cyprus faces a “massive problem”.

“These adoptions due to the economic situation, Brexit etc., have dropped.

“So now these strays, especially dogs that are not wanted in Cyprus, are staying in shelters.

“We were essentially sweeping the problem under the rug; sending (dogs) abroad was not the solution,” she said.

Charalambous said national animal welfare legislation “is quite good but not enforced.”

“We all need to be kinder to our animals, but the law needs to be enforced regarding births and abandonment”.

Andreas Tsavellas, who works for the non-profit animal welfare organisation Simba Animal Aid Cyprus, said the number of abandoned dogs reached record heights this summer.

“All animal shelters are overcrowded. It is estimated that more than 3,000 are housed in dog shelters throughout Cyprus,” he told daily Philelftheros last week.