The Malta Independent 4 December 2023, Monday
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Pet owners, animal welfare NGOs concerned as only animal hospital closed for over a month

Isaac Saliba Sunday, 1 October 2023, 07:30 Last update: about 3 months ago

Malta’s only 24/7 animal hospital, the APH Veterinary Hospital, has been temporarily closed since 18 August, leaving pet owners and animal welfare NGOs concerned about the wellbeing of animals under their care.

The Animal Welfare Commissioner, Alison Bezzina, said she had been informed by the Ministry for Animal Rights that the hospital was closed as a result of the damage caused to electricity cables while road work was taking place nearby.


From a list of all licensed veterinary establishments updated in June 2023, the APH is the only listed veterinary hospital whilst all other establishments function as clinics and veterinary consultancy practices.

The closure of the hospital has resulted in an unfortunate situation for pet owners all around Malta, who are finding themselves faced with a lack of immediate options should their pets encounter an emergency situation requiring medical assistance. It remains unclear when it will be reopened.

The veterinary hospital’s social media makes no mention of any disruption in operations, and attempting to call the publicly available number results in a dead end.

Speaking to The Malta Independent on Sunday, Bezzina said that during the closure, according to Private Veterinary Establishment Regulations, “all licensed veterinary clinics are mandated to provide or participate in round-the-clock emergency services”. She said that it is still evident that a significant number of the licensed veterinary clinics in Malta lack essential diagnostic capabilities “such as X-Rays and ultrasounds” and that most of them do not offer overnight care as the APH did.

Bezzina added that whilst the APH is privately owned and operated, it is the State’s duty to ensure that animals are able to receive necessary care and welfare. She said that both public and private sectors must shoulder the shared societal responsibility and collaborate in order to uphold the highest standards of animal welfare.

“I earnestly call upon the relevant authorities and stakeholders to promptly address this issue, clarify the situation with the public and ensure the availability of essential services to safeguard animal welfare,” she concluded.

The Malta Independent on Sunday reached out to animal care NGOs for their thoughts regarding the situation.

Christine Meilak, the Secretary General of CLAWS, said the NGO had to deal with a number of emergencies throughout every weekend since the issue was initially reported. She said that CLAWS has been contacted directly by several people seeking advice or medical assistance for their cats outside of normal hours. “We feel like this issue is not being given the importance it should be,” she remarked.

Meilak continued that the NGO assists people and directs them to available clinics wherever possible but that it is still “a very sad situation” as none of the other clinics provide 24-hour veterinary services. Meilak added that there have been cases in which the NGO had to set up cats on IV drop and no available clinics would accept them or had the necessary facilities to accommodate them.

Meilak continued that some cases require delicate surgeries which were previously handled by the APH but now have to be handled by other clinics. She explained that this may not always be possible due to these surgeries only being able to be performed by a handful of vets who are always packed with appointments.

The CLAWS Secretary General urged for more pressure to be put on the issue. “Past administrations had promised a subsidised animal hospital which would cater for strays,” she said. “Not only has this never materialised, but we do not even have a private option available to go to.” Another issue, Meilak explained, is that people are finding it difficult to acquire medicine from clinics as even after presenting a prescription, they are being told that if their pets are not the clinic’s patients they cannot receive the medication as the clinic’s patients have priority to the stock.

She concluded by saying that Malta needs to have at least one animal hospital like the Ta’ Qali APH hospital and that more veterinary pharmacies are needed across the Maltese islands with longer opening hours.

Karmen Coleiro, the Manager of Animal Guardians Malta, described the lack of government support as “very discouraging”. She said that the AGM NGO has been running a cat therapy shelter for seven years and relies entirely on public donations as well as their own funds to operate the shelter. “We do not receive €1 from the government.”

The Malta Independent on Sunday reached out to Parliamentary Secretary for Animal Rights Alicia Bugeja Said and Enemalta for comments. No replies have been received.

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