The Malta Independent 22 July 2019, Monday

Animal welfare NGOs call for more responsible dog ownership, stronger enforcement

Tuesday, 25 June 2019, 14:26 Last update: about 27 days ago

Five animal welfare NGOs have called on the authorities to step up enforcement when it comes to irresponsible dog ownership, saying that the current situation is “unsustainable.”

MSPCA, Gozo SPCA, Noah’s Ark Dog Sanctuary, Stray Animal Support Group and Animal Care Malta said they are constantly contacted by concerned or irate members of the public who have either been attacked by an off leash dog, or have an issue with dog excrement littering their pavement, or have a neighbour who refuses to do something about their dog barking all day and night.

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“In such situations it is common that the person has tried seeking assistance from the animal welfare department or even the police, only to find out that the very people tasked with enforcing such laws lack the will to do so and even discourage people from filing an official report.”

NGOs also get involved when an abandoned animal is brought in without identification or whose chip number is not registered. This makes it difficult to identify the owner, which often only happens after the legal holding period and long after the animal has been rehomed, causing a lot of grief and complications for everyone involved. More often than not though, we suspect the animal was not chipped intentionally so that it cannot be traced to its abandoner, the NGOs said.

These situations could be reduced or even eliminated if the laws on dog ownership were upheld and enforced appropriately, and if people used a little common sense, the groups said.

“There have been many occasions when the police insist, threateningly, that a dog that is not registered be returned to the person who reports it missing and claims ownership, while no action is taken against the defaulter despite a fine being prescribed by the law. Fewer dogs would turn up with a non-registered microchip, and even fewer abandoned, if microchipping and registration was enforced rigorously.”

“If your dog does not come back when called; If you cannot see your dog after it runs off because you are in a bendy narrow country lane, then you have no business letting them off leash, especially if it is an area where you are likely to run into other people and people walking their dogs or near roads. Telling people your dog is safe, when it is clearly raising its heckles, showing off its teeth and fails to return to you when called, exposes you as a liar,” the NGOs said.

It has become common to see dogs straying with their owner's blessing at music festivals and family events with police at the events turning a blind eye. It is unfair to other people and to the dog who can easily get lost, poisoned, stolen, injured or abused, the statement continued.

The NGOs appealed to the public to fulfil their obligations as pet owners, and not only chase their rights. 

“But our major appeal is to the government to review its law enforcement strategy with regards to the animal welfare act and its subsidiaries. The current situation is becoming unsustainable, especially where people and dogs are getting injured and those complaining about dog fouling and nuisance barking are finding absolutely no support from the authorities. As such we would like the government to publish how many relevant fines were issued in the years since the coming into force of the Electronic Identification of Dogs Regulations.”

 

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