The Malta Independent 22 July 2024, Monday
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Unlicensed dog breeder set to face multiple charges

Malta Independent Monday, 25 August 2014, 14:00 Last update: about 11 years ago

An unlicensed ‘dog breeder’ is set to face multiple charges after Animal Welfare officers who inspected his “kennel” in the past days found a number of animal welfare law infringements. These include selling dogs without a licence, advertising illegally and keeping some of the animals in sub-standard conditions.

The Animal Welfare Directorate confirmed that it had carried out the raid at the Qrendi premises and found “prima facie evidence of animal welfare law breaches.”

The Malta Independent is informed that the department had received multiple complaints against the alleged defaulter. A number of his neighbours complained about the strong smell of urine and excessive barking coming from within the house while other concered dog lovers reported that the breeder was selling inbred dogs, including beagles, with some even reporting that their pets died after a few days or weeks. There were also reports that the man was illegally importing puppies from Italy.

An Animal Welfare Department officer confirmed that, upon arriving at the site, a strong smell of urine was coming from the building. Inside the property, they found that the dogs were being kept in two areas: on a roof terrace, where conditions were somewhat satisfactory, and in a semi-basement, where officers noted that there was no proper ventilation and the dogs were being subjected to strong ammonia fumes coming from the urine. An officer explained that such an environment might cause health and welfare issues including difficulty in breathing, mucosal, ocular and pulmonary irritation to the dogs.

At least one pup was found to be in a bad condition and was found to be suffering from a severe gastro-intestinal upset and the breeder was ordered to take him to the vet for a check-up, which he did. The officer also told this paper that the man was not cleaning the area properly and some dogs were being kept in small cages which were not in line with minumum standards and were unacceptable from an animal welfare point of view. The regulations in force  lay down the minimum dimesions and setup of the enclosures  which must have a sleeping area, and an exercise area.

Among the various breeds of dog, which include beagles and German wirehaired pointers, inspecting officers also found three dogs which might be classified as fighting dogs and the relevant checks are being carried out. The AWD said that these three dogs had clipped ears but the owner claimed that the appearance-altering operations - which are illegal in Malta - had been carried out abroad before he brought them to Malta.  

The kennel’s facebook page also says that other breeds, including American Staffordshire Terriers, Jack Russell Terriers and Cane Corso, are sold from the premises.

It seems that the breeder had the necessary  licences for the electronic identifiaction (microchipping) of dogs being kept at the Qrendi house.  However, the inspecting officers could not verify the inbreeding claims. The breeder, however, does not hold any of the permits necessary to trade or sell live animals. It also transpires that pot belly pigs were found within the residence without the necessary license for the keeping of swine.

According to recent legislation, one must have a pet shop licence to be able to sell dogs. This would require permission by the Veterinary Regulation Directorate. The premises must also be trade-licenced, and also require  the necessray permits issued by the MEPA. 

The breeder was told that he cannot sell two beagle puppies which were for sale and was also ordered to remove online adverts. It is also understood that the man denied bringing pups from abroad but his business cards say that he is a breeder and an importer of dogs.

AWD officers gave the man a set of instructions to follow and advised him that they will carry out follow-up inspections in the coming days.

It is understood that the breeder could be taken to court over some of the illegalities and a number of entities, including the Veterinary Department, the Trade Department and the Sanitary Inspectorate will be involved.


Call for better laws to regulate animal breeding

In the meantime, this newsroom has received numerous reports of “irresponsible breeding” which is, in several occasions, leading to an increase in genetic disorders and premature deaths. Reports have been surfacing of  “back-alley” kennels breeding “pedigree” dogs with serious health conditions. The dogs are being sold for as much as €900 and the pedigree ceritificates are sometimes being counterfeited. The Malta Independent has heard of a number of cases where distraught puppy owners challenged the breeders who sold them their “sick” dogs only to be met with indifference, or insult. “They only care about the money,” said one woman, whose dog developed a serious condition after three months and had to be put down.

A member of a dogs charity that wished to remain anonymous said numerous reports have been coming in on the same Qrendi breeder as well as others. “Many so called breeders, or greeders as we like to call them, are resorting to overbreeding or inbreeding as a way to make a quick buck. But this is essentially ruining the breeds because these two methods can produce puppies which are weak and much more prone to genetic disorders. In some cases it is also leading to a complete change in the appearance of particular breeds.”

When contacted, a spokesperson for Dogs Trust Malta said people should be aware of what is out there when opting to buy a pedigree dog. People seeking to buy dogs should always make sure to check that the dogs are healthy, ask to see both parents and not buying puppies younger than eight weeks. Breeders are also being encouraged to do DNA testing on their dogs to identify any potential genetic disorders or diseases before they are bred.

The breeding of dogs is regulated in Malta by the Electronic Identification of Dogs Act. The law states it is illegal to mate a bitch which is less than twelve months old,  whelp more than six litters from one bitch, whelp two litters within a period of twelve months from the same bitch or sell a puppy before it is at least eight weeks old.

Breeders intending to breed more than four litters in a year are required to obtain a license and keep detailed records. The law, however, does not say anything about  inbreeding or breeding dogs with known health issues.

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