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GUEST POST: When Will Malta’s Animal Welfare Start Taking Its Job Seriously?

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Animal cruelty, a failure to enforce animal rights and Malta’s general approach to animal welfare is something that we seriously need to talk about.

Many of us on the island seem to still be living with an antiquated mindset on how we should treat animals – and it just isn’t good enough anymore.

I recently went for a walk in Mdina and the first thing I saw was three karrozzini, with one of the horses frothing at the mouth, chewing on the metal mouthpiece and its tongue hanging out.

Foaming is sometimes normal for horses, like when they see food or are relaxed. They also do it when they’re too hot or uncomfortable, but in this case, it was clearly producing excess saliva because of a dry mouth or an inability to drink.

The horses might have been in the shade, but there was no water in sight and I can guarantee you that no human or animal would want to be tied up that manner and carry around overweight tourists voluntarily, especially with last week’s temperatures.

In 2018, a horse died thirsty, exhausted and overworked under the scorching summer sun. People reacted by organising protests and petitions to ban horse carriages.

The people’s voices went, unfortunately, unheard.

Instead, a new law was introduced after the horrible incident which states that: “No karozzini will be allowed between 12pm and 2pm or if the temperature exceeds 30 degrees and that routes won’t include hilly terrains.”

However, it wasn’t long before the MSPCA would raise the alarm and say the new karrozzini laws aren’t being enforced.

I, and many others both older and younger, still believe that horse carriages fall under animal abuse regardless of any new laws.

This is a tradition that we need to move on from and we must find ways to push owners to make money elsewhere, without the (ab)use of a living animal (don’t worry, it’s possible). 

Two days ago, Inez Galea was attacked and killed by two dogs, reported as pit bulls even though they are mixed breed, owned by her own grandson.

Now, many might believe, especially because of the stigma surrounding pit bulls, that this was expected of the breed, but that is not the case at all.

Sadly, in Malta, there are animal abusers and people who don’t understand animals’ well-being as much as there are animal lovers and activists. In this case, this is where Animal Welfare is supposed to step in.

The dogs ended up in the hands of a man who did not care for them as he should – no matter what he is saying now – and reports were repeatedly made to have the area checked to see if his method was deemed appropriate… and when Animal Welfare finally did show up, all they did was give the breeder the green light.

I did not visit the area where the dogs were being kept, but even I can tell from the couple of photos I have seen that it is nowhere close to how animals should be kept. Animal Welfare, however, visited the site and never took action against the man.

Recent updates tell us that the owner has since given up most of the animals residing at the rooftop of the residence, but four dogs remain.

What will happen to the unfortunate dogs that ended up in that situation? Will they be euthanised because they were never shown love and affection? Will the two dogs who attacked the woman be used as evidence against their owner and then killed off too? How is that any better?

We need to be better and stop using animals as if they are nothing.

How can the fate of two living beings be in the hands of someone who cares not for animal rights? It is extremely inhumane to kill any animal which does not have a life-threatening disease that is causing it pain. Most of the animals found of that rooftop are already re-homed and found the family that they deserve – and the other dogs deserve justice and the opportunity to find someone willing to retrain and re-home them as well.

People believe that if the Animal Welfare Department heeded their reports, this could have been avoided and Inez would still be with alive. People are furious and disappointed at how Malta’s Animal Welfare ignored calls regarding animal abuse coming from the owner – and this is not the first time. 

When will the Animal Welfare and other related authorities start taking their job seriously and when will they start making animals their priority?

There are many ways in which they can improve.

Firstly, they need to start accepting as many volunteers as they can to help clean after and walk the dogs because my friends, colleagues and I personally have been rejected as volunteers before.

They must also hire more qualified staff and fire anybody who disregards important protocols such as ignoring reports. Certainly, better management and funding is a must. As an establishment, they, tragically, lack many resources as I have seen first-hand the state which their animals were being kept in.

But this is not just the Animal Welfare’s problem. There are many issues that demand immediate attention and action from anyone involved. Must we bring up the fact that bestiality is not criminalised in Malta? Or the lack of investigation and punishment in animal cruelty incidents? Cruelty on farms? Hunting?

There is so much more to talk about, but it keeps falling deaf ears. We cannot keep taking action or making small changes to our laws after the damage has been done – we must be pro-active to stop the damage from even occurring.

Yaz recently finished her studies in animal management, welfare and veterinary nursing, has worked on farms and veterinary clinics and has volunteered at animal sanctuaries. 

Do you think Malta’s Animal Welfare is failing the island’s animal population? Let us know in the comments below

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