My partner Ben and I recently travelled to Kyrenia, Northern Cyprus, to celebrate my 30th birthday and see family. However for me, no trip to Northern Cyprus is complete without visiting the Kyrenia Animal Rescue (KAR), and taking a selection of rescue dogs out for a beautiful walk around the five-fingered mountain.
KAR has been a very special place to me for about 5 years now. I first discovered the centre back in 2012, on holiday with a good friend of mine. Sara and I are mutually bonded by our shared affection for animals, and strong views about their welfare and rights. So maybe it was fate that brought us upon a kitten stuck howling in a car engine in the middle of the capital, Nicosia, on a hot summer’s day. The kitten, we later named Micra, because of her size and the car she was trapped in, had three legs, fleas, an infected eye and a nasty cough. She had apparently been stuck in the engine for 3 days, and ‘only’ after we made a fuss did the owner help remove her. We nursed her overnight and took Micra to KAR the next morning, hoping she would survive in better hands. Micra was taken into vet care immediately. She survived and managed to win the affection of a member of staff at the vets who gave her a permanent home.
It didn’t take long for Sara and I to fall in love with KAR, and when we heard volunteers were always welcome we scrapped the rest of our holiday plans to spend the rest volunteering. For three days we walked dogs up, down and around the five-fingered mountain. We walked roughly 60 dogs in total. See photos below for our adventures with KAR:
Back in 2012 KAR was already overcrowded with 250 dogs and about 50 cats, with barely room for more unless funds were raised to build more compounds. Now in 2017, there are new compounds (thanks in part to Sara, who raised £850 on a sponsored walk), but the amount of dogs in the centre has risen to 400!
Each time I visit the centre, and spend time with the commendable staff of KAR, I learn of the difficulties of the shelter and the struggle to fund expensive food and vet bills. KAR even has to pay for every operation on the neuter and release program in order to prevent the over-population of strays. Worst still, the prices for these operations have recently increased making it even harder. The centre faces many challenges. Unlike animal charities in the UK, KAR are solely funded by donations for both money and food. They also face issues from the local government who place restrictions on certain practices, such as their neuter and spay program. KAR was prevented from operating this program for a whole year, as the government insisted that they could handle it alone, but never did. Obviously during this time, the population of dogs in the area highly increased. Still now, there are restrictions on returning dogs to the area they were picked up from.
There are more concerning situations for the centre beyond government restrictions. Animal rights are not of the highest standard in Cyprus. Abandonments occur regularly, and cruelty cases are not uncommon either. For example, one little dog I met there had suffered cuts around her neck where her collar, on too tight, had become embedded in to her skin. Puppies and dogs are also found each morning at the centre dumped during the night. Some come in starving or suffering from the fatal disease, Parvo. Cases of poisoning or shooting the dogs is also prevalent in the area. Despite this the staff at KAR struggle on, and do the best they can with what they have.
Due to numbers of staff, and hours in the day, the dogs can go a long time without going for a walk. Luckily there are kind visitors who come and occasionally take their favourites out. Sara and I were amazed by the gorgeous walks around the five-fingered mountain with its immense panoramic sea views of Kyrenia. We were also pleasantly surprised that despite how often the dogs get exercised they were so well behaved off the lead, even in large groups. Most were more than happy to come back, especially if they knew it was nearly dinner time!
This year when we visited KAR, Ben and I did a couple of wet walks around the centre. Unfortunately it was raining, but the dogs certainly didn't mind! We started by taking out four dogs, Lucey, Buster, Alysa and Jessica. They were released out of their compounds, with no leads required! They came charging down the alleyway towards us, past other compounds, and bounded excitedly around us before starting their walk. They were so grateful for attention and cuddles, and stuck close by the whole way around the mountain. The walk took about an hour, before we headed back and they happily put themselves back in the compound to find their breakfast had been left waiting for them.
Lucey is a black Labrador at the centre who I fell in love with back in 2012. At that time, she was skin and bones and used to scale the fence to lean over the top. She knew how to get herself noticed! My parents also fell for her and decided to sponsor her, and still do. Now when I visit she is a completely different dog. Lucey has gone from overly skinny to quite tubby! I always choose to take her out along with her fellow kennel mates each time I visit.
This year, I fell in love with Lucey’s kennel mate, Buster, the only boy in the group. He was so cuddly and affectionate, he completely won me over! So much so, that Wanderdog has decided to sponsor Buster, to help him and his fellow dogs at the centre to be able to afford food, vet bills and site maintenance.
Here is our thank you note from Buster!
KAR celebrated their 20th anniversary this year, so it’s amazing to see how much the centre has come along in these years.
If you fancy sponsoring a dog at KAR and helping this worthy cause, there are 400 dogs to choose from and roughly 25 cats. Sponsorship is £10 per month, but the first three months are paid up front.
Email KAR for more information on: email@example.com
I cannot recommend highly enough a visit to the shelter if you are on holiday in the area. Maybe the animals of KAR will steal your hearts too!
Visit their website here: www.kartrnc.org
Find them on Facebook here: www.facebook.com/KyreniaAnimalRescuekar
KAR are also currently trying to raise money to build an animal treatment facility at the centre. This way they can make their neuter and spay operations much more affordable.
See their go fund me page here if you can offer any help: www.gofundme.com/kar-vet-room-facility
“Being a hero to someone, even if it is a dog, is a feeling like no other. Though it can be frustrating, it can be the most rewarding thing to give someone a second chance at a happy life.”
(Elizabeth Parker, Finally Home)