A new law in Cyprus will provide for up to ten police officers to be trained on handling animal cases, with critics accusing the government of failing to deliver on its promise to create a proper animal police force.
According to local media, the House approved on Thursday a government-sponsored bill to amend law enforcement legislation that will create a special unit within the police to handle animal abuse and neglect. The bill got 32 votes in favor and two abstentions.
While a representative from DYSI ruling party, Demetris Demetriou, admitted the new law would not solve the issue in its entirety, he said it was nonetheless a reflection of citizen awareness and “respect for animals that is growing day by day.”
But opposition parties slammed the bill saying it was inadequate, accusing the government of failing to deliver on its promises and describing the new legislation as a far cry from instituting a proper animal police on the island.
The Green party noted that a 2012 legislation authorized the police chief to draw members from animal welfare organizations into a special task force, which would have had a policing role
Left party AKEL MP Evanthia Savva, who said her party voted the bill to send the right message, argued the law did not meet expectations as there would be no more than ten officers manning the new unit.
Green Party MP George Perdikis, who spearheaded past efforts in the House, said “the new law will do nothing” and criticized the government for adding more duties to a few officers instead of assigning special officers on the job.
Τhe legislation calls for a number of officers to be assigned on cases involving allegations of animal abuse and cruelty, with special training to take place frequently.
“But this is already happening,” Perdikis said, adding that officers currently involved with animal abuse cases went through training in recent years.
Perdikis recalled previous legislation in 2012, after his party pushed for a bill that ultimately authorized the Chief of Police to assign Special Officers who would deal exclusively with animal welfare as well as animal abuse.
The Green party MP noted the 2012 legislation authorized the police chief to draw members from animal welfare organizations into a special task force, which would have a policing role.
Socialist party EDEK MP Kostis Efstathiou also slammed the new legislation, saying it was “unproductive” and it could make matters worse.
“Calling some officers animal police would give rise to situations where people reporting abuse will be deferred to the unit for animal welfare, while today an abuse complaint is a criminal matter ought to be investigated by any police officer,” Estathiou said.
Estathiou, whose party gave the two abstentions in Thursday’s vote, said his position would have been in favor of a department similar to wildlife crime officers within the Game and Fauna department.