Emergency cash sent to Cyprus to save animals threatened by starvation during financial crisis

Monday, 8 April, 2013
Brussels, Belgium

The International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW – www.ifaw.org) has sent desperately needed emergency funds to Cyprus to help feed animals facing starvation because of the current financial crisis.

Donations to Cypriot shelters have completely dried up in the last couple of weeks as access to bank accounts have been frozen or severely restricted. The difficult financial straits of the previous years meant that shelters were already scrambling to supply the basic necessities for animals in their care. The latest developments have pushed shelters from a tenuous position to one of desperation.

“In the past IFAW has provided this kind of emergency aid in conflict zones like the Tripoli Zoo, Baghdad or Cairo during the Arab spring – it seems inconceivable that an EU member state would be in a position of need similar to those countries but that is the reality on the ground there,” said IFAW EU Regional Director Sonja Van Tichelen. “The EU is one of the world’s richest regions and yet within its borders we cannot meet the most basic needs of animals or people – it’s a disgrace.”

The burden on Cypriot shelters continues to grow as their financial situation worsens. Individual pet owners are increasingly unable to care for their own companion animals and are turning to agencies such as these in increasing numbers to provide basic food and shelter.

IFAW’s support will help ensure that 1200 dogs and cats in eight shelters receive sufficient food and water for the coming month.

"We had a person with 50 horses that cannot feed them and this is a trend affecting numerous animals. At least two shelters had to let go several employees to save money for animal feed,” said Mary Anastasi, President, Cyprus Voice for Animals. “local authorities responsible for stray dogs and cats are almost bankrupt. They refuse to take in stray and abandoned animals and animal welfare societies are very worried as to what will happen to those animals living in the Municipal and Local Dog pounds. We are also very concerned about the availability of proper food for many farm animals around Cyprus as farmers have been facing the same problem for the past two years, which now is worse."

The situation is further compounded by the insistence of many animal feed suppliers for payment in cash rather than by credit card or cheque.

IFAW works with local animal welfare partners to supply emergency relief, in the form of medications, equipment and emergency grant support for animals in need around the world. Normally these emergency situations are brought about by natural disasters such as the earthquake in Haiti in 2010 or the Aquila, Italy earthquake of 2009; man-made disasters such as the Fukushima nuclear disaster in 2011 or conflict zones such as Baghdad, Tripoli and Egypt in previous years. This is the first time that the financial crisis has caused an animal welfare disaster of this kind.

“The financial root of this crisis is unique,” said Shannon Walajtys, Manager of IFAW’s Disaster Response Program. “But regardless of the cause animals often suffer unfairly in times of crisis as the people on whom they depend are no longer able to care for the animals. It is left to IFAW to come in and help while a longer-term, sustainable solution can be found.”

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