A couple has been left heartbroken after they were told they couldn’t adopt a dog they had rescued themselves.
Nathalie Debono and Aldo Calleja were driving in torrential rain in Żurrieq when they came across an abandoned dog on the street last December.
“The dog seemed lost, but we approached and it let us pick it up. It was drenched and shivering. We looked around to check if anybody was out looking for it and waited at the spot in the car for quite a while, but nobody turned up visibly looking or calling out for a dog,” they told Lovin Malta.
After establishing that no one was going to pick up the dog, the couple contacted Animal Welfare, which sent an animal ambulance to inspect the dog.
It was determined that the dog did not have a microchip and therefore didn’t belong to anyone and would be kept at Animal Welfare for a period of seven days before it’s adopted, in the case the owner does show up, as per regulations.
“By that time, we were completely in love with him and it was already difficult to let him go, but we wanted to do the right thing,” they said.
Though they expressed interest in adopting the dog, they were told they couldn’t.
“They explained that the reason behind this adoption barring policy was that some people called in with reports about injured or unwell stray pets, then after a few days they would call to adopt the pet,” they continued.
Under the Animal Welfare Act, strays dogs may be adopted by those who rescue them.
However, if they are then passed onto Animal Welfare for safekeeping, the department’s own set of policies apply, which prohibits rescuers from adopting the stray dog.
Speaking to Lovin Malta, Commissioner of Animal Welfare Alison Bezzina said that the policy is currently being examined, but believes that a dog should be adopted according to a suitable match nonetheless.
“Animal Welfare is currently reviewing the process of adoptions so we have a clearer picture of why this case happened.”
“In general, I would never advise that finders are keepers because dogs and cats found on the street should always be matched with their best adopters. The finder should not be given first choice because they found the dog,” she said.
A policy to bar rescuers from adopting stray pets they rescued was introduced due to people seeking free healthcare by claiming their dog was a stray.
“There have been cases in the past where people call Animal Welfare to get free medical care for their own personal pets and try to adopt them back once they’ve been given the attention they need.”
“This leads to Animal Welfare being very careful who the animals are given back to,” Bezzina ended.
Although the couple weren’t able to adopt the dog, it has since been rehomed safely.
“We’re heartbroken and I have been crying all week. Knowing that he is with a good family gives me a little respite,” the couple ended.
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