The Malta Independent 26 May 2024, Sunday
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Animal owners should face fines and not verbal warning, if issues with animal's environment found

Monday, 15 April 2024, 14:22 Last update: about 2 months ago

The Office of the Commissioner for Animal Welfare end of year report for 2023 recommended that if there is only an issue with the animal’s environment, the Animal Welfare Directorate should still impose administrative fines or other punitive measures on the owner, rather than a verbal warning.

This is especially the case if the animal is found to be in good health, the report said.


Among the 10 recommendations Commissioner Alison Bezzina made was that the approach of giving an animal owner a verbal warning and a set timeframe to address the issue, if the AWD has conducted an inspection and found issues with the animal’s environment, becomes counterproductive over time.

This approach “increases the workload for AWD, undermines the authority of the Directorate, and encourages owners to flout the law until caught,” Bezzina said.

“Like with any other laws, immediate penalties should be imposed for breaching the AWD Act. While confiscation of the animal can be postponed, owners should still face administrative fines or other punitive measures during the initial inspection,” the report read.

Another recommendation made was an emergency inspection service which operates around the clock, in cases where an animal is in imminent danger of injury or serious suffering.

Among the recommendations were an appeal for the AWD to improve its overall processes, such as improving communication processes and digitizing them, as well as compulsory training for people conducting rehoming and adoption services, which should be overseen by AWD or an NGO.

Bezzina said that AWD officers should be fully aware and familiar with all the details of the Animal Welfare Act, and recommended that the AWD adheres to the highest standards of care and welfare with regards to the transportation of animals.

The report also recommended that if the decision not to update reporters on cases is a permanent one, then this should be communicated to the public to manage expectations.

The report also pointed out the AWD’s reputation of not responding appropriately and timely, where it then recommended the engagement of additional human resources for pivotal roles.

The Commissioner also appealed for more transparency and timely reactivity from the Veterinary Regulations Directorate (VRD), to ensure effective communication and alignment between all involved parties.

The report also recommended additional human and other resources to be allocated to VRD, to enhance their capacity for conducting inspections in a more timely manner.

The 2023 end-of-year report also listed past recommendations made by the Commissioner for Animal Welfare and submitted to the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Animal Rights, some of which were accepted and fully implemented, while others are still under discussion.

Among the past recommendations which were accepted, yet have not been implemented, such as the better, stricter, and enforced regulations on the breeding of dogs, more dog friendly run free spaces, as well as the improvement of the electronic microchipping system and its enforcement.

In her closing statement, Bezzina said that 2023 was a year of both progress and obstacles in animal welfare, and that while some slow strides were made, significant challenges remain.

She said that the pace of implementation of various initiatives has been “frustratingly slow, if not stagnant.” Bezzina appealed for more action with purpose, conviction and a sense of urgency, and to recognise that all involved stakeholders are not dealing with mere paperwork, but with the lives and well-being of sentient beings who feel and suffer with every delay.

The 2023 recommendations were created following CAW investigations conducted in the same year.

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