Commissioner for Animal Welfare Alison Bezzina has submitted a formal recommendation to amend a law so as to allow courts to ban anyone found guilty of animal abuse or neglect from owning pets again.
As it stands, the power to ban individuals convicted of animal cruelty only applies to those who are found breaching S.L. 437.101, which deals with Electronic Identification of Dogs Regulation.
“In practice therefore, if a perpetrator is found guilty of animal cruelty but not of breaching S.L. 437.101, the courts cannot apply this ban regardless of how hideous their crime against animals is,” Bezzina explained.
Such was the case yesterday, when Magistrate Donatella Frendo Dimech was legally unable to ban a 50-year-old man, who was found guilty of animal abuse after throwing his dog out of a window to its death, from owning pets in the future.
“Magistrate Frendo Dimech highlighted this anomaly in the law and explained how it stopped her from imposing a well-deserved ban on Mr. Spiteri from ever owning any animals,” Bezzina continued.
Instead, the man was handed a two-year prison sentence, suspended for four years, and a €8,000 fine.
“My recommendation is that the law is changed (asap) in a way that gives the court a wider opportunity to impose this ban wherever cruelty, abuse or neglect of animals is involved, and not only a ban on the ownership of dogs but on the ownership of all animals,” Bezzina said.
Moreover, Bezzina goes as far as to claim that no one in the same household as the abuser should be allowed to own animals either.
In October 2020, Magistrate Rachel Montebello sentenced a Haz-Żebbuġ farmer, Sergio Borg, to 15 months in prison for chaining and starving several dogs and animals on his farm.
In February 2020, Magistrate Frendo Dimech also exercised this power when she imposed a 15-year ban on owning, and applying for a licence, for a dog against a Bizbizija animal abuser.
However, in most cases this power isn’t exercised due to it falling under a specific clause, that of the Electronic Identification of Dogs, preventing magistrates from imposing it on those who aren’t convicted under this clause.
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