The Malta Independent 19 May 2022, Thursday

Commissioner for Animal Welfare submits 3 new recommendations to government

Thursday, 12 May 2022, 11:22 Last update: about 7 days ago

Commissioner for Animal Welfare Alison Bezzina has presented the fourth set of recommendations to the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries, Food and Animal Rights Anton Refalo, and parliamentary secretary Alicia Bugeja Said.

The three new recommendations are an addition to the 15 recommendations already made by Bezzina to improve the operations of the Animal Welfare Directorate.

The first new recommendation is to have more dog friendly run free spaces, which would address the problem of few adequate dog parks in which dogs are allowed to roam freely without a leash.

Bezzina’s recommendation is for more dog-friendly run-free spaces which include dog-friendly beaches, which are accessible in urban areas and with small and big dogs in mind to provide quick solutions in the event of a fight. The recommendation calls for the space to be bordered off into smaller areas for fewer dogs in each, and where the owner can remain close (100 to 200 sqm)

CCTV cameras should also be set up in the spaces to avoid fouling and other indiscretions. Bezzina said that dogs and their needs should be kept in mind in the PL’s promised €700 million which is to be invested in green and open spaces.

The second recommendation includes the conducting of a National Census of Captive Animals in Malta in Gozo. Bezzina said that it is not known how many domestic and exotic animals are on the island, and the different species that have been imported and bred locally throughout the years.

Due to lack of enforcement of certain laws which require a person to have a license in keeping such animals, there is an increased number of unregistered and illegal animals being kept, Bezzina said.

The recommendation is that with immediate effect, a short-term amnesty is provided for the registration of exotic, dangerous and wild animals. A positive incentive was also proposed, such as a limited time free microchipping service, for people to register and microchip cats and dogs.

The commissioner recommended that in 2023 the introduction of a separate and obligatory nationwide animal census, which by 2031, would include animals in the existing 10-year national census.

The third recommendation includes the improvement of the electronic microchipping system, which includes the possibility of shared ownership and the automatic flagging of people banned by the courts from owning dogs or other animals.

This recommendation would address some problems, where it would flag a name of a person who is convicted of cruelty to animals, as well as address the situation that only one person can be recognised as the owner of the animal, despite being married and adopting a dog together.

Bezzina said that ‘blacklisted’ individuals who are forbidden from owning animals should be included in a database that is digitally synced to the microchipping database. The recommendation also includes the strengthening of administrative fines and the distribution of official certificates for those who microchip their pet cats.

Bezzina said that the recommendations made would curb the overpopulation of dogs and cats and for the government to provide adequate resources to enforce the current laws regarding animals.

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