If you’re wondering about stray dogs in Cyprus, then we can only discern that you’re planning a trip to this sun-kissed isle out on the far eastern fringes of the Mediterranean. So, before we get going, we’ll say this: Good choice! This jewel-shaped rock has it all for the would-be vacationer, from glimmering beaches and bays swimming with turtles to soaring mountains clad in cedar trees.
But back to the original question…Unfortunately, the presence of stray dogs in Cyprus is a pretty big and daunting problem. The island counts upwards of 200,000 stray canines, the vast majority of which are left to fend for themselves on the streets. Estimations also say that the current population of strays on the island is rising, while commentators have noted the lack of legislation to help contend with the issue.
This guide to stray dogs in Cyprus will run through all the ins and outs of this issue. We’ll take a look at just how many stray dogs there are on the mystical Mediterranean rock and see how wild canines became such a widespread phenomenon in the beloved holiday destination. We’ll also talk about how this may affect your vacation and what to do if you encounter stray dogs between your beach sessions and taverna visits.
How many stray dogs are there in Cyprus?
Sadly, it’s A LOT. Today, there are estimated to be something in the region of a quarter of a million stray dogs in Cyprus. That’s a whole load for an island that only has a human population of just over 1.2 million. On top of that, the issue is exacerbated even more by an estimated population of stray cats and domestic felines that exceeds a whopping two million in total!
To put those numbers into perspective a little, the whole European Union reckons that there are about 100 million stray animals across the entire block. That means that Cyprus’s stray dog population accounts for a mega 0.2% of the total all on its own!
On the flip side, Cyprus isn’t alone in this. There are actually a whole host of countries across the continent that struggle to control their numbers of strays. Take Romania, where there are thought to be over 65,000 stray dogs in the capital of Bucharest alone. Or check Greece, which has something like two million stray domestic animals across the country. You can be sure that it’s not a problem unique to the Island of Love.
Why are there so many stray dogs in Cyprus?
As with most serious social issues, there’s no clear single cause to the out-of-control stray dog population in Cyprus. But there are some things that really stand out as potential causes and contributors that simply can’t be ignored.
The one thing that comes up time and time again here is the tradition of using dogs for hunting. In fact, stats show that an estimated 90% of the strays found abandoned in Cyprus every year are discarded at the end of the hunting season (usually in late spring). The problem is that hunting dogs tend to have very short working lives, since they’re often injured in the hunt itself or are quickly rendered unproductive because they’ve been treated badly by the hunters themselves.
On top of that, there a are number of other related and unrelated factors that help to feed into the growing issue of stray dogs in Cyprus, including:
- A powerful hunting lobby – Hunters have historically done well to keep animal welfare concerns off the political agenda, so few laws have been passed to actively try to change the plight of hunting dogs that might be abandoned.
- Traditional views on animal rights – Long-held beliefs that neutering and spaying animals was counter to the natural way of life has seen explosions in the population of strays across the island.
- No centralized response – The Cypriot government has previously made individual municipalities across the island responsible for taming their own stray dog populations. This has fragmented the response and meant that the issue is rarely tackled cohesively with proper legislation.
- Late laws for authorization – Laws that allowed for the humane euthanasian of strays were only passed in the last 10 years in Cyprus, leading many experts to note that it’s too late to control and already booming number of strays.
- Routine abandonment – Owners of unwanted litters commonly abandon their dogs on the streets rather than go through official resale or adoption channels.
- Struggling charitable response – There are now oodles of charities set up to help ease the plight of stray dogs in Cyprus. However, they tend to be small and easily overwhelmed by the sheer number of strays on the island. They do great work, but the problem is a massive one!
- A reluctance to adopt mixed breeds – Getting the strays of Cyprus adopted can be hard since most of them are unpopular mixed breeds.
Are stray dogs in Cyprus dangerous?
There’s a certain threat when it comes to encounters with any stray animals, anywhere. For example, these uncontrolled populations of canines can often be a pool for diseases such as rabies. Thankfully, Cyprus is 100% free of rabies, as noted by the CDC. That said, strays can still be potential carriers of harmful bacteria and worms, which have the ability to pass to humans in the event of close contact. Generally, though, the risk of infection from Cyprus’s stray dogs is considered relatively low.
The more obvious danger comes from direct physical harm from the animals in the form of scratches and bites. There have been reports of whole packs prowling the streets of different towns and cities here, occasionally attacking other wild animals and even stray cats.
There are also regular reports of dog attacks on humans across the island, usually involving young children under the age of 10. Most recently an eight-year-old was hurt in Limassol by a pack of un-chipped dogs, including one rottweiler. Another child had to undergo emergency surgery after being accosted by a stray dog in the Nicosia region. It’s an all-to-often occurrence.
What to do if you encounter stray dogs in Cyprus
Your own safety is the first thing to ensure if you encounter stray dogs in Cyprus. Packs of dogs are often the highest risk and should be avoided, especially at night and dawn, when they tend to go out in force and aren’t so deterred by regular human activity on the streets. Keeping a good distance, crossing the road if you see them coming towards you, and not making any sudden movements in the stays’ vicinity are all good practices as you slowly back away.
If you happen upon animals that you think have been maltreated in Cyprus – and that happens all too often! – you can contact the local municipal office, who should be obligated to register the animal. Alternatively, there are a number of charities that can help treat and rehome strays that could be of help. They include the Argos Animal Sanctuary, SaveADogCy, and Merlin’s Haven Dog Rescue to name just three. They’re often busy but are usually happy to help with extra information on what to do in various situations.
Adopting a dog from Cyprus
One of the most direct ways that you can help with the stray dog problem in Cyprus is by opting to adopt your next pet from the island. That’s made easy today thanks to the work of a number of charities. They help smooth out the process of getting your next best pal off the streets and into your home. Here are just a few that you can contact for further information:
- Argos Animal Sanctuary – Situated in Xylofagou, this sanctuary does adoptions and sponsor-a-dog programs.
- SaveADogCy– A youth organization that aims to raise awareness among Cypriot students for the plight of stray dogs on the island.
- Merlin’s Haven Dog– A large farm and sanctuary in Frenaros that offers adoption services.
- Cyprus Pride House – Established in 2002 to focus on adoptions of animals from Cyprus to the UK. Currently has lots of cats and a few dogs waiting to be rehomed.
Stray dogs in Cyprus – our conclusion
There’s no doubt about it – the issue of stray dogs in Cyprus is a big one. An estimated 250,000 feral canines currently roam this island, plus many more stray cats. It’s all a result of years of traditional attitudes and a lack of legislation to counter it. Stray dogs here could present a potential danger to holidaymakers, but attitudes are slowly changing and there are now many places that offer rehoming and adoption services.