Here at Holidays 4 Dogs, we all look forward to our own holidays, holidays with dogs or without,  mine invariably, seem to involve animals these days, sometimes by choice and sometimes they just seem to find me!

Several years ago, on my fourth trip to Peyia in Cyprus, I decided to start finding out more about animal rescue and veterinary care there. Having worked with animals all of my life, I found it impossible to ignore the number of strays on the streets, outside tavernas and even latching onto us in our accommodation. Cyprus, like many countries, has a high number of stray cats and dogs and also suffers from its own issues such as lack of animal laws being enforced (and no national organisation to do so), regular deliberate poisoning of animals and many unwanted litters and dogs used during hunting season being dumped when they are surplus to requirements. Hunting dogs (usually Pointer or Beagle types) are often kept in small outdoor cages or tethered with little shelter or proper meals. Sadly, it’s not just the locals who are to blame – in recent years, many ex-pats returning to their home countries for financial reasons have simply abandoned their own pets or returned them to the rescue centres from where they were originally ‘saved.

It’s not all doom and gloom though. There are several charities fighting hard to improve education and awareness of neutering, running neutering projects and feeding those who live rough. With recent changes to pet passport laws, it is now even easier for visitors from the UK and Europe to arrange adoption of cats and dogs. After visiting four animal shelters and spending some time with a local vet, I chose to focus my attention on a small volunteer-run charity called Peyia Animal Rescue Club (PARC) and soon became close friends with their chairperson, Ruth. Unlike some of the other charities, PARC have no animal shelter but rely on a team of foster carers to provide cat and dog care in their own homes – a similar role to that of a Holidays 4 Dogs carer. Their volunteers are responsible for feeding almost 200 feral cats every day and attending numerous rescues. They also treat every animal for parasites and try to ensure they find a new forever home. Their feeding and veterinary bills alone cost in the region of 2500 euros every month.

Over the past four years, I have had enormous fun organising and running events in the UK to raise much needed funds, almost 10,000 to date. My antics have included spending the night in haunted Derby Gaol, a skydive (never again!), making promotional videos for youtube, and also running craft fairs, raffles, chocolate tasting and jewellery parties and being on donkey ride duty at a charity dog show. It has paid off, as last summer I was able to purchase a block of stainless steel veterinary kennels for them and also contributed towards the animal ambulance they recently bought.

As part of my holiday, I visit PARC once or twice each year and Ruth has always taken time out of her manic 24-7 schedule to show me their latest additions, whether it be visiting dogs in their foster homes, feeding and trapping cats requiring veterinary care, or attending any fundraisers which are taking place whilst I’m in Cyprus (usually events such as pub quizzes or treasure hunts, so I don’t need much persuading!) Last summer involved a frantic call to Ruth to ask whether I could borrow a cat trap as we seemed to have acquired a stray at our villa, who had a large abscess under her chin and was also very obviously in season. I can honestly say that when I booked the flights, I did not expect to be jumping around outside at 6am, dressed in pyjamas and waving a can of tuna in one hand!

There have been many benefits from my Cyprus animal obsession – the fact that I now have a large circle of animal loving friends out there and have spent the last two summers pet sitting for some of them whilst they are on holiday, the fact that I adopted my own dog from PARC during my travels and of course, knowing I have helped to make a difference. Oh, and the weather’s always a bonus.

If you are off to warmer climes this summer, spare a thought for the animals in that country. The hotel cats may look well fed but that is probably solely due to a small silent group of volunteers making sure they receive a decent meal each day. It can be upsetting visiting animal shelters but sadly, the work they carry out is a necessity. I can thoroughly recommend getting involved, whether helping to walk dogs or raising much needed money when you return home but be warned – it will take over your life!

If you would like to learn more about the work of PARC, are interested in fundraising or making a donation, please visit www.parc-cyprus.org

Jo Welsby RVN