A bill amending existing animal welfare legislation which is being discussed at the parliamentary committee level aims to introduce strict penalties for dog owners but leaves untouched provisions to do with the euthanasia of dogs, something that has sparked the reaction of animal welfare organizations.
In an explanatory note accompanying the bill, the Ministry of Agriculture, Rural Development and Environment says that the proposed legislation aims to clarify the competencies of involved authorities and to promote the more effective implementation of the law by introducing procedures for out-of-court settlements as well as promoting responsible dog ownership.
With the amendments underway owners are obliged to get a license for dogs over 2 months old, which will cost €5 per year for all neutered dogs and €30 for non-sterilized dogs, compared to €20,50 which is the amount for a license now.
Euthanasia continues to be allowed as per the existing legislation in several instances. If an owner does not abide by the law, the dog will be taken away and given to animal welfare organizations or a shelter. However, if it is not possible to find another owner for the dog within 30 days then the dog will be put down. The same process applies to stray dogs.
Dog owners may be fined €200 for having a dog without a license, €100 for not reporting that a dog is lost or stolen within 2 days or the death of a dog within 7 days. Having a dog without a collar with the license number and the owner's telephone number also results to a €100 fine.
Other fines that may be incurred are €50 for not having a sign at the entry of a residence, €200 for not taking adequate steps to prevent a dog from escaping, for abandoning a dog, for finding a dog outside the premises of its owner, for nuisance caused by barking or for a dog living under conditions which would make it dangerous for public health. Owners allowing their dogs to roam off lead in a public area may be fined €300.
At the same time having, breeding, importing, or selling a dog that has been deemed to belong to a dangerous breed may incur a fine of €1,000. Under the law, the pitbull terrier, the American pitbull, the Japanese tosa, the Dogo Argentino and the Fila Brasileiro are all considered to be dangerous breeds. The presence of such a dog outside the premises of its owner without a muzzle may incur a fine of €2,000.
Euthanasia an "easy solution"
Cyprus Voice for Animals has submitted its views about the bill to the committee. Its President Mary Anastasi told CNA about the fines that "if someone is a good owner they have nothing to fear." The legislation already had set out the violations but no penalties had been provided for them, she explained.
She expressed however the strong disagreement of animal welfare organizations over provisions that have to do with euthanasia. "Animals are being rescued from the streets or from bad owners and as a punishment, they have to die," she said, adding that "euthanasia must be removed from this legislation." While it continues to be part of the legislation local authorities are able to use it as "an easy solution to get rid of unwanted dogs by euthanizing them," rather than implementing the legislation.
She noted that there are local authorities who do not have animal hospitality premises despite legislative provisions to that effect, nor do they cooperate with animal shelters, which are in any case overcrowded. As a result, Anastasi said there is no transparency nor figures as to how many dogs are being put down every year.
At the same time the, Cyprus Association for the Protection and Care of Animals, which has also submitted its views to parliament, disagrees with an increase in fines proposing instead an increase in the licensing fee for non-neutered dogs to €200, pointing out that this could help in the effort to put a stop to the out of control reproduction which often leads to the abandonment of animals.