06 December 2013 09:21

Although their life-changing skills have been embraced overseas, there is currently no guide dog programme in Cyprus.
Speaking to The Cyprus Daily on Wednesday, Pancyprian Organisation of the Blind president Christakis Nikolaides said that a programme had been set up but ended around two decades ago.
"The dogs used to be schooled by police officers who had been especially trained for the purpose in Sweden but once they retired, these officers were not replaced."
Nikolaides said that this had occurred "in or around 1990 with a small number of dogs still being used up until 1993 or 1994".
"I remember there was a man who used to walk a long distance to the School for the Blind with his dog, they allow people to cross larger distances safely," he said.
Apart from the expense of having specialist trainers for the dogs and investing in a programme that also includes training the guides alongside their new owners, Nikolaides noted that the local mentality towards animals at the time was also no help in keeping the programme going.
"There were even instances of guide dogs being poisoned, I remember one case in particular in 1992 or 1993 that was widely reported where the owner said that it was as though the person who had placed the poison had also taken away his eyes when he killed his dog," he said.
Nikolaides noted that although times have changed and people in Cyprus were somewhat more tolerant of animals now, restarting the programme would be impossible without the state's financial support.
Nikolaides also noted, however, that there had also been little interest in guide dogs in Cyprus for many years now, with the organisation receiving only a couple of inquiries about them every few years.
"We have some isolate requests which the organisation, as much as we may like to, cannot satisfy," he said.


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