The Animal Welfare department is refusing to reply to basic questions sent to it by Lovin Malta regarding recent claims of arbitrary euthanisations of dogs in its care.
Last month, Lovin Malta reported that animal rights activists were up in arms over a number of dogs that were put down in recent weeks, which they claim could have been saved.
Activist Robert Archer Xuereb, one of the founders of the platform Vegan Prism, got in touch with Lovin Malta about the matter, insisting that the current system in place for determining whether or not a dog should be put down due to aggressive behaviour was not up to standard.
Archer Xuereb said that while according to the law, the decision needed taken by the Animal Welfare Department’s vet and director, such decisions needed to be taken by a behaviourist.
Malta’s Animal Rights Commissioner has since ordered an investigation into the matter.
There is no indication when that investigation will be completed. Archer Xuereb also claimed that the Animal Rights Ministry had agreed to start an investigation of its own during a meeting he had had with ministry officials, though this has never been confirmed to Lovin Malta by the ministry.
A request for confirmation was sent on August 20th but no reply has been forthcoming.
Since the publication of that story, Lovin Malta has spoken to several activists, some of whom have considerable experience with the department, even having volunteered there at certain times.
They all expressed concerns about how the decision to put down dogs was taken, each recounting their own stories about how dogs were put down despite not being aggressive enough to merit this course of action.
The activists all painted a picture of a directorate in which decisions were taken on the basis of staff’s personal opinion and not any other protocol.
While there is no doubt about the intentions of these activists – all have a great love of animals, and in some cases knowledge of the dogs put down – it is difficult to know how accurate their claims are.
In each case mentioned, the dogs did appear to have exhibited some degree of aggression, though in all cases, the sources said that they weren’t “aggressive enough” to merit being put down.
Lovin Malta asked Animal Welfare director Patricia Azzopardi for information about the number of dogs put down each year, as well as the procedures in place for determining if and how this should happen in the hope of understanding the situation better.
More than two weeks later, however, and no reply has been forthcoming despite assurances that it would.
Without any information being provided by the relevant authorities it is to some extent difficult to understand the full picture.
While being well-intentioned, the majority of those who have spoken out are in many respects coming from a place of emotion, and likely lack a proper understanding of all the considerations that need to be made.
In fact, some even said that while there was undoubtedly a lot that could be improved about the department, there were considerations to be made that went beyond whether or not a dog could theoretically be rehabilitated, including issues of liability should a particular dog that has been rehabilitated and rehomed, have another aggressive episode once they have left animal welfare’s care.
The issue of who would foot the bill for any rehabilitation programme, as well as the lack of expertise on the matter here in Malta, were also raised by sources on the other side of the argument.
In its recently published report, the board that led the public inquiry into Daphne Caruana Galizia’s murder emphasised the need for the government to change its approach to request for information from the media, making several recommendations regarding how this should be addressed.
While the subject matter, in this case, might seem far removed from the political controversy and scandal one would associate with the public inquiry’s investigations, the lack of openness on the part of what is ultimately a government agency is very problematic.
It is also symptomatic of the lack of respect local authorities have towards journalism and the basic democratic principle of accountability. It is also indicative of the fact that there is likely something to hide.
Share this with someone that needs to read it