The Malta Independent 17 May 2022, Tuesday

2016 laws regarding possession of dangerous animals must be amended – Animal Rights Minister

Semira Abbas Shalan Wednesday, 26 January 2022, 12:22 Last update: about 5 months ago

Minister for Animal Rights Anton Refalo told the Malta Independent on Wednesday that the 2016 laws regarding the possession of ‘dangerous animals,’ particularly big cats, must be amended to ensure the protection of these animals.

This newsroom asked the minister about further regulations for unregulated breeding and importation of exotic animals, as well as the rearing of said animals in a private residence. This follows the news of a case where a dog was bitten by an exotic animal in an Għajnsielem home, which was later revealed that a puma and a black panther were being kept in the same home.

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The 2016 laws dictate that keeping big cats in private homes is not permissible, and that they need to be kept in an appropriate environment, such as a licensed zoo. When the laws were put in force, however, a number of these wild animals were already being kept on the island, giving private owners the opportunity to register their animal in order to continue keeping them legally. It also enabled private owners to freely breed their animals and then sell them to zoos for a fee.

The authorities are now faced with an issue of an increase of these animals due to unregulated breeding being kept in inadequate environments. Furthermore, once an incident happens, and the animals are technically meant to be confiscated, the authorities have nowhere to place such animals, which is what happened at Għajnsielem, were the ‘confiscated’ animals were still being kept in the same home.

“I agree that the 2016 laws need to be kept up with the times and require amending,” said Refalo adding that he must be careful on what to say as investigations on the Għajnsielem case are still ongoing.

Refalo admitted that it is true that there is no place to keep these animals, and that wild animals should be kept in their own habitat, otherwise could face a potential risk of death.

“I have listened to the Animal Commissioner’s suggestions in improving the regulations of these animals in light of their quality of life, and we are ready to take action after studies are done regarding this situation,” said Refalo.

He admitted that the situation was a long time coming, highlighting the fact that it was predicted to happen sooner or later. Refalo said that there needs to be a just solution which ensures the protection of these animals.

On a question regarding the progress of the zoo impact assessment which was introduced in Parliament a few months ago, Refalo said that it is in its final stages and within the next week, proceedings will occur.

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