The euthanisation of Mason, a pitbull that attacked a donkey, was justified, an investigation found.
In fact, this very investigation concluded that all euthanisations of dogs ordered by the Animal Welfare Department (AWD) from January to August of this year were justified.
A board of investigation was set up by the Office of the Commissioner of Animal Welfare – completely independent of the Animal Welfare Department.
This investigation was sparked by the attack of a pitbull named Mason on a donkey while being walked by a volunteer in the mid summer months.
The donkey allegedly suffered from significant injury and according to a witness, had Mason not been stopped with the help of a second person, “he would have turned on the volunteer and attacked him too”.
However, there’s no way that one can know this for sure.
Mason had been rescued from being kept on a balcony around a week earlier – his owner admitted that this was done out of fear of letting his dog inside with a new-born baby.
He included that Mason had already been re-homed once but for some unknown reason, was returned back.
The director of Animal Welfare, AWD’s warranted veterinary surgeon and the manager of AWD’s dog section then made the decision to euthanise the pitbull.
This decision was not taken well by the public, especially not by activists who protested for the seemingly unjustified death of Mason the pitbull and for all killings of innocent dogs.
Between this, and activists getting in touch with the Commissioner of Animal Welfare Alison Bezzina, AWD decided to conduct an investigation into Mason’s killing.
Along with all the euthanisations of dogs in Malta, approved by the Animal Welfare, from January to August.
As it stands, the Director of AWD is legally empowered to take the decision of euthanisation if a dog is deemed aggressive.
One overarching criticism of the AWD was that it systematically euthanised pitbulls based on several stigmas that plague the image of the breed. However, the investigative report completely debunked this.
“Given the current resources available to AWD, managing these cases appropriately without resorting to euthanasia would have been so restrictive that it would have seriously compromised the dogs’ quality of life, the safety of the staff and volunteers, as well as other animals at AWD,” the report said.
They added that the option of exporting dogs to specialised sanctuaries abroad was discussed, but by the time this investigation was concluded, this seemingly promising alternative remained vague and without a practical way to be implemented.
Investigators also held discussions with local dog sanctuaries and they found that due to space, resources and knowledge, four out of five sanctuaries will not take in dogs with a history of aggression.
Meanwhile the use of muzzles was also partially shut down for several reasons. One of which being that it would be “unfair to subject all dogs to wear a muzzle when only a very small percentage present a potential threat”.
However when considering that this might save canine lives, this argument seems pretty weak.
Nonetheless, they explained that, when absolutely necessary, muzzles should be introduced over a prolonged period of time, under supervision, with positive reinforcement and training.
The report also included recommendations for the consideration by the Ministry for Animal Welfare.
It suggested a minimum of two aggressive incidents that a dog should be involved in before any euthanisation related decisions are made, along with the consultation of a qualified and experienced behaviourist.
A fenced open space at Animal Welfare should also be provided so that the dogs can run freely and “blow off steam” while being observed or trained prior to rehoming.
Dogs with a history of aggression should only be walked by experienced volunteers/staff members who should be wearing a visibility vest which indicates to passers-by to ‘stay away’. Wherever possible such dogs should be assigned two people and wearing a muzzle.
Ultimately, the report stressed that the breeding of dogs should be tightly controlled with amended laws that avoid loopholes and tackle irresponsible breeding. The Minister must exert his right to strictly control (if not temporarily stop) the breeding and importation of Pitbull and bully breeds.
Do you think that the euthanasia was justified?