The Malta Independent 14 April 2024, Sunday
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‘A dog is for life,’ animal sanctuary manager says as bigger dogs are not adopted

Isaac Saliba Monday, 4 March 2024, 08:11 Last update: about 2 months ago

There is a problem of many big dogs being abandoned and not being adopted, said Rosalind Agius, an animal activist and the sanctuary manager of the Association for Abandoned Animals

Agius explained that the AAA sanctuary keeps a population of around 80 dogs in its care and that the adoption rate always depends on the type of dogs that are being housed at the shelter.

She continued that the sanctuary is currently in a slow adoption period, and that there are no puppies or small-sized dogs. She explained that this means when people come in and ask about available dogs for adoption, the sanctuary can only show them big dogs starting from around 25 kilos. Agius remarked that if 20 small dogs were to show up at the sanctuary today, she is sure that they would all be adopted within a week.

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The sanctuary manager said that there are big problems when it comes to animals being abandoned in Malta. She said that there is a mentality problem in terms of people taking in many dogs to then end up abandoning them for no reason when they feel like it.

The first thing, Agius began, is that people need to acknowledge that buying or adopting a dog is a “for-life” commitment. She said that if people stopped abandoning dogs, then the problem would automatically solve itself. “Adoptions and donations are great, volunteering as well, but the core of the problem is the abandonment.”

The AAA sanctuary offers free neutering, she explained, adding that this is important because neutering prevents the birth of more puppies who are then left without a home. She said that whoever wants their dog neutered and cannot afford to do so can contact the sanctuary and they will handle it for free.

“Honestly, the situation in Malta has never been good,” the sanctuary manager said, “Abandonment has always been there and the situation is not getting better.” Agius said that a dog is ultimately for life and that people should do their research and make sure they know what they want to do before making a decision, as in the end, it is the animals who have to suffer and go through abandonment if their owner does not want to keep them around.

When The Malta Independent last spoke with Agius, her main point and message was that the laws in Malta needed to be enforced. In our conversation with her, we asked her if she feels there have been any improvements in this regard.

“There is no enforcement of laws,” she said, “And some laws need to be changed but have not. The problem has been there and it remains there.”

She said that enforcement is in the hands of animal welfare and that in actuality, the shelter doesn’t really know what is being done and what isn’t. She remarked that she has offered to testify several times, especially regarding cases of dogs who had been confiscated and had previously been at the sanctuary. “I think that the last time they called on me to testify was around two and a half years ago,” she added, “So no, we’re not seeing particular improvements, but it is very important.”

On 18 August 2023, the only veterinary hospital in Malta, the APH hospital, ceased operations in what was called a temporary closure due to electrical damages resulting from nearby roadworks. Nearly seven months since then, the hospital remains closed, and the lack of a 24/7 animal hospital has been felt deeply around the country, with pet owners and animal activists alike expressing how important the resources of the hospital were for emergency situations.

Having come into a new year since then, The Malta Independent asked Agius how the lack of a 24/7 veterinary hospital has impacted the ongoing work of animal sanctuaries. She replied that there are a number that people can call in an emergency, but that this does not mean the clinic will have the necessary equipment or resources to help. “The clinic may not have the necessary blood testing equipment, an X-ray machine, or veterinarians qualified in certain aspects.”

She said that the APH had all these resources and that it is extremely sad that pet owners cannot have the peace of mind that they have somewhere to go if something happens to their dogs.

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