NEWS

Waterskiing donkey owner faces jail

This is the first complaint involving a donkey this year. NICOSIA (AFP) – A Nicosia businessman, who tied his endangered Cyprus donkey to a raft in a water-skiing stunt in hopes of setting a world record, faces jail for cruelty to animals, a veterinary official told AFP this week. We can’t be made to look like hypocrites after going to so much trouble to present ourselves as animal lovers. These nouveau-riche types make some money and stop making sense, a Veterinary Department official said on Wednesday. What made things worse for the businessman is that he turned his effort – to set a record for the longest donkey water-skiing ride in the world – into a media circus and had his picture plastered all over the newspapers and TV. Unimpressed Veterinary Department officials immediately lodged a complaint with police against the cruel owner. The six-year-old male donkey is apparently none the worse for wear after his ordeal 10 days ago following a check-up by state vets. It is now recovering in its unnamed owner’s care after overcoming the initial shock of having its legs tied to a makeshift raft that was pulled for several minutes by a speedboat off the Larnaca coast. Although donkeys are natural swimmers, this donkey would have drowned for certain if the raft had tipped over because it was tied up, said the official. Later expressing remorse, the owner claimed that he had no idea that what he did was illegal. He faces four charges of exposing or subjecting an animal without reasonable cause to pain, fear, distress and injury. The charges carry a maximum penalty for a first offense of a year in jail and/or a 1,000 Cyprus pound ($1,575) fine. The case highlights the plight of the island’s dwindling population of 2,000 donkeys, 80 percent of which are past their reproductive prime. Although the rare indigenous donkeys live as long as 35 years – at least five years longer than their European cousins – they are in danger of extinction because of their aging population. A protection program is already in place with veterinarians traveling from village to village to give medical checkups to donkeys. Most of the island’s donkeys are concentrated in and around the Limassol district village of Orini and its namesake in the Paphos District.