Animal Welfare Commissioner Submits 3 New Recommendations to Government

Animal Welfare Commissioner Alison Bezzina presented the fourth set of recommendations to Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries, Food and Animal Rights Anton Refalo and Parliamentary Secretary Alicia Bugeja Said.

The three new recommendations are in addition to the 15 recommendations already made by Bezzina to improve the functioning of the Directorate of Animal Welfare.

The first new recommendation is to have more open spaces for dogs, which would solve the problem of a few adequate dog parks where dogs are allowed to roam freely off leash.

Bezzina’s recommendation is to create more dog-friendly run-free spaces, which include dog-friendly beaches, which are accessible in urban areas and with small and large dogs in mind to provide quick solutions in fight case. The recommendation calls for the space to be demarcated into smaller areas for fewer dogs in each, and where the owner can stay close (100-200m²)

CCTV cameras should also be installed in the spaces to prevent fouling and other indiscretions. Bezzina said dogs and their needs should be factored into the 700 million euros pledged by the PL to be invested in green and open spaces.

The second recommendation includes carrying out a national census of captive animals in Malta in Gozo. Bezzina said it is not known how many domestic and exotic animals are found on the island, nor the different species that have been imported and bred locally over the years.

Due to the lack of enforcement of certain laws that require a person to have a license to keep such animals, there is an increased number of unregistered and illegal animals being kept, Bezzina said.

The recommendation is that with immediate effect, a short-term amnesty be provided for the registration of exotic, dangerous and wild animals. A positive incentive was also offered, such as a free, limited-time microchipping service for people to register and microchip cats and dogs.

The Commissioner recommended that in 2023 the introduction of a separate and mandatory national animal census, which by 2031 would include animals in the existing decennial national census.

The third recommendation includes improving the electronic microchip system, which includes the possibility of co-ownership and the automatic flagging of people prohibited by the courts from owning dogs or other animals.

This recommendation would address some issues, including reporting the name of a person convicted of animal cruelty, as well as the situation where only one person can be recognized as the owner of the animal, even if they are married and adopt a dog together.

Bezzina said “blacklisted” people who are banned from owning animals should be included in a database that is digitally synchronized with the microchip database. The recommendation also includes the strengthening of administrative fines and the distribution of official certificates for those who microchipped their pet cats.

Bezzina said the recommendations made would reduce the overpopulation of dogs and cats and that the government would provide adequate resources to enforce current animal laws.

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