An animal rights activist has called on local authorities to carry out an overhaul of the protocols in place to determine when an animal can be put down.
The appeal comes after three pit bull dogs – Mason, Archie and Xena – were put down by the Animal Welfare Department in recent weeks.
Several individuals have reached out to Lovin Malta over the past couple of days about the case, arguing that while one of the dogs was mildly aggressive, they were not hopeless cases and could easily have been trained and rehabilitated.
This comes weeks after Commissioner for Animal Welfare Alison Bezzina sounded the alarm over the possibility that Malta would need to introduce ‘kill shelters’ unless it took action now and introduced requirements for people to own pets.
Details about this latest case are a bit scarce but it appears that the three dogs were taken in by the Animal Welfare Department recently. They were put down some days later over aggressive behaviour.
Legally speaking, the Animal Welfare Department has every right to put down an aggressive dog, though there are other avenues that can be explored before such drastic action is taken, according to Robert Xuereb Archer.
Xuereb Archer, together with his partner Roberta Farrugia, founded the Facebook page Vegan Prism – a vegan lifestyle resource platform – and has taken great interest in the case.
Xuereb Archer added however that had Malta had a proper system for determining when an animal is too aggressive to be rehabilitated, the dogs would likely have been spared.
“If you can save five, six, seven out of ten aggressive dogs, why not? Killing should be the last resort after all other options have been exhausted,” Xuereb Archer said.
It appears that one of the three dogs had exhibited aggressive behaviour while in the care of the department and had even tried to attack a donkey while being walked by animal welfare department officials.
“First of all, I think that all dogs should be walked with a muzzle, especially if they are showing aggressive tendencies. This is important to protect others from them but also to protect them from themselves,” Xuereb Archer said.
Moreover, he said that according to Maltese law, healthy dogs can legally be put to sleep if they are aggressive.
“The problem is that the law empowers the Animal Welfare department vet and the director to take the decision and not an animal behaviourist. There also isn’t any structure to help and rehabilitate aggressive dogs. A behaviourist should be on the panel that decides whether a dog is put down,” he said.
He said that dogs were very rarely beyond rehabilitation, noting that sanctuaries specialising in this area existed abroad.
“For a dog to be killed based on aggression, they need to have failed a rehabilitation programme twice,” he said, adding that Malta should also explore the possibility of striking an agreement with some of sanctuaries abroad that aggressive dogs can be sent to.
Xuereb Archer again acknowledged that the department had not done anything illegal, but insisted that the system could be improved considerably.
“It is not illegal but just because it isn’t illegal it doesn’t mean it is morally right,” he said.
He isn’t the only one to have reached out to this website, regarding the three dogs.
One reader who got in touch and who wished to remain anonymous also sounded the alarm about the fact that employees and volunteers at the animal welfare department were obliged to sign a non-disclosure agreement before being allowed to work at the department.
They questioned why this was necessary given that the job did not necessarily involve knowledge of any form of trade secrets or sensitive information.
Lovin Malta has reached out to Animal Welfare Department director Patricia Azzopardi for comment.
Do you agree with Xuereb Archer’s suggestions?