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!