A legal amendment will now allow magistrates to ban people found guilty of animal abuse from owning pets in the future.
The new amendment was announced earlier today in a joint press conference between Justice Minister Edward Zammit Lewis, Animal Rights Minister Anton Refalo and Commissioner for Animal Welfare Alison Bezzina.
“We’ve noticed a void in our laws,” said Zammit Lewis. “A person who commits crimes against animals, and who isn’t capable of taking care of animals, may be prohibited, whether permanently or temporary, from owning animals in the future,” he said.
The new amendment will empower magistrates to ban those found guilty of animal abuse, meaning they and their family will be barred from owning pets.
“It is important the amendment is pushed through parliament quickly so that it may be ratified,” he said.
A register with details of those who are banned from owning pets will be set up and shared with animal homing organisations. However, the public is also being encouraged to enforce this new amendment by reporting any breaches in the law.
“The law is going to apply for all animals and helps in a number of ways. It is going to reduce the chance of repeat offenders and it’s going to send a strong message to those who abuse animals and the public that we are taking this seriously,” Bezzina said.
“Not only can you get a fine and time in jail, but you and your family can be banned from owning animals ever again,” she said.
However, Commissioner Bezzina also pushed for further measures, reiterating her stance that the Director of Animal Welfare should be empowered to ban owners of confiscated pets from owning pets until the respective court case is concluded.
“It’s the only way we can safeguard animals from the moment there is a big suspicion that abuse is being carried out,” she said.
Minister Refalo also backed the proposition, stating that the ministry will consider making it a solution.
A number of infamous animal abuse cases have rattled Malta over the past year, including that of a Ħaż-Żebbuġ farmer, Sergio Borg, who was sentenced to 15 months imprisonment after animals were found living in their own faeces, tied up to chains and forlorn on his farm.
In this case, Magistrate Rachel Montebello was unable to ban Borg from owning pets in the future.
Another case involves a Ħamrun dog abuser, Duncan Caruana, who was filmed physically abusing his dog last summer. He has yet to be charged.
There is also the case of Andre Galea, an infamous dog breeder who stepped into the limelight after two of his dogs mauled and killed his grandmother. He has yet to be charged in court for involuntary homicide.
In an effort to educate the nation on proper animal care and animal rights, Commissioner Bezzina has launched a series of 11 educational videos, the first of which was released today and discusses the importance of microchipping and ID tagging dogs.
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