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CALF: 'Dog pound failed in its duty of care'

By Natalie Hami
August 1, 2012

ANIMAL welfare groups have sent a damning report to Attorney-general Petros Clerides detailing a 'systemic regime of animal abuse' at the Dhali municipal dog pound.

Clerides confirmed that he had seen the report and already sent it to the chief of police. "They told me that they would investigate and let me know," he said.
The litany of alleged abuses, which animal lovers have been collecting since April includes dogs being left to die with no medical attention or basic veterinary care, dogs entering the pound in a healthy condition and being found emaciated "to the point of death" only eight weeks later, dogs living in filthy conditions, surrounded by faeces and crawling with ticks, puppies dying through lack of basic care and being left to rot in the kennel with other live puppies; dogs disappearing and dying with no explanation or paperwork.
No efforts were made to re-home any of the dogs, it claimed.

The report said only one person was given responsibility for taking care of the dogs, and he only worked until 2pm daily and never on the weekends, which meant the animals were left to fend for themselves 60 hours at a stretch once a week. It is against the law to leave an animal alone for more than 24 hours, the report said.

"Our evidence gathering culminated in the discovery of a mass grave of dog carcasses directly outside the dog pound," said the report compiled by the Friends of Cyprus Dog Rescue, Cyprus Animal Liberation Front (CALF). This was the "most sickening and horrifying piece of evidence" found, the report said, and in contravention of health laws.

One of the dogs in the grave, a Great Dane cross called Romeo who was alive on July 17 was found on July 24 with a bag tied round his head, said the report. Evidence suggested he had not eaten for days.

According to a forensic scientist who studied photos: "While it seems that he was not killed on site there are what look like shoe and paw prints in the sanded area at the top of the pit. If it's not the photograph showing shadows then at least one dog was led down there alive."

The forensic scientist -- part of Friends of Cyprus Dog Rescue -- deduced, among other things, that some dogs may have been placed in plastic bags and then placed in the grave while they were still alive. Latex gloves found at the scene have been sent for DNA testing.

"The evidence that systemic and sustained abuse and torture of animals at Dali dog pound is taking place on a regular basis is compelling," the report said. "This is a government operated dog pound. It is breaking its own laws on animal welfare. No animal in a government operated facility should become sick and be denied treatment; become emaciated to the point of imminent death or be treated without due respect. The dog pound should be a place of safety for them until they can be reunited with their owners, re-homed or humanely euthanized."

The report said that in April, a number of dogs disappeared from the pound, mainly Cyprus Poodles "for which no explanation was given apart from the fact that they had died".

"We believe that if the mass grave is excavated the bodies will be found," it added.

Friends of Cyprus Dog Rescue has removed ten dogs in the past six weeks of which 80 per cent were emaciated and suffering from infection, disease or illness resulting from direct neglect, the animal lovers said.

Since the report was compiled, volunteers from Cyprus Voice for Animals have stepped in to help the animals.

Cyprus Voice for Animals' head Mary Anastasi said the situation was now "under control". "There are volunteers there now that have been there for a while -- we made a deal with the municipality and the volunteers now have a key," said Anastasi.

She could not confirm what was in the report but simply said that she had heard that there had been various complaints.

"We knew there was a problem and the volunteers said that they wanted to help in a more official way," she said, adding that it is a job that needs many hands and the municipality alone could not help properly.

Dhali mayor Leontios Kallenos however said that the one dog that was found in the pit -- the report states that there was more than one dog - was due to the fact they did not have their own digger to bury him at that moment and were simply waiting to get one.

Asked about the allegations made against the municipal employee tasked with looking after the dogs, he said; "He was a worker but we call the vet whenever it's necessary."

He then threatened to take the key away from the volunteers if this story was printed: "I don't want to tell you what to write but if you say slanderous things about the municipality we will break the contract with the volunteers," said Kallenos, adding that they were the only municipality that have handed a key over to volunteers.

Despite the fact that according to the law authorities have 15 days to find their owners or they are euthanized, Kallenos said that they often keep the animals there for months because they want to re-home them. He said 90 per cent of the dogs that end up in the pound are re-homed

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