The government should pay horse-drawn carriage drivers a golden handshake in exchange for them relinquishing their licence, the Malta Society for the Protection of Animals has said.
In a statement earlier this afternoon, the MSPCA said that one of the pandemic’s effects, which had gone largely unnoticed, was the withdrawal of horse-drawn carriages from Malta’s streets.
It said that even with the economy’s reopening and Malta welcoming back tourists, the demand for horse-drawn carriage rides had decreased.
“MSPCA believes that tourism is not projected to get back to normal in the short-term, leaving cabby drivers struggling to earn enough income to cover the necessary expenses to properly support all horses,” the organisation said.
“The COVID-19 allowance is certainly not enough to maintain the livelihood of the drivers and their families and the wellbeing of the horses.”
There are currently 111 horse-driven carriages registered with Transport Malta, the MSPCA pointed out, adding that the number was high considering the size of the island.
“MSPCA is proposing that the government introduces a financial measure providing half the cabby drivers with the opportunity to a golden handshake to relinquish their licence and start a new trade or business,” MSPCA Animal Rights Manager Anthea Galea was quoted as saying.
Cabby drivers who give up their licence should also be given the opportunity to give back their horse to Animal Welfare for them to keep the horses safe in a state-funded sanctuary.
MSPCA noted that other countries, including Israel and several US states, had also banned the practice.
“Unfortunately, we believe that if horse-carriage were banned, most horses would end up homeless or worse put to sleep. This is why we believe that Animal Welfare should invest in the setting up and running a horse sanctuary and also support existing horse sanctuaries to host and take care of these horses with immediate effect.”
Under new rules published in July 2019, horses are to be kept off the streets between 1pm and 4pm from July to August.
Moreover, horses can only be driven on alternate days and any single horse cannot be used for more than three days every week, with each journey having to be not longer than 45 minutes.
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