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Rescue team moves in to save three dogs

Desperate barks echoed through the otherwise deserted Għajn Tuffieħa barracks yesterday as an animal rescue team moved in to save three dogs suspected of being kept there for illegal fighting.

One small dog, a mixed breed just a few months old, had its head stuck between two bricks preventing it from reaching the mound of animal intestines beside it that was the only food in sight.

There was also a bucket of water which, being empty, was of little use to the trapped dog. The chain that held it captive in the make-shift yard in the sweltering sun had burrowed into its skin.

Despite its discomfort, the small creature wagged its tail on seeing rescuers from the Animal Welfare Department and animal NGO Noah's Ark, who work together to save injured and abandoned strays from the cruel streets.

Animal welfare officer Godric Marston climbed over a wire fence, about two metres high, to free the bitch which he kept calling "pupa" (doll). Once released the dog was clearly grateful as, tail wagging, it kept trying to jump onto its rescuer.

Mr Marston's colleagues then set up a ladder so that the dog could be safely lifted over the fence.

Earlier on, the team rescued a male pit bull that was tied up with a short chain in another yard at the barracks. Beside him lay a pile of pig skin.

The dog, about nine months old, was surprisingly friendly, despite the scars on its face and body.

"The poor thing was tied up in the yard that was easily accessible by other dogs making it completely defenceless in case of attack," Mr Marston said.

Charlie, as Mr Marston called him, cooperated with rescuers and got into the pen that was then lifted into an animal ambulance - a service officially launched last week.

Rescuers also saved another pit bull that was roaming around the barracks alone. This male dog, about nine years old, was too aggressive to handle so it had to be sedated with a dart gun.

The three dogs were taken to a vet and are now in the care of the Animal Welfare Department. They will eventually be taken to the Noah's Ark sanctuary in Mellieħa. Noah's Ark founder Fabio Cuschieri said the organisation had been informed about the dogs by passers-by.

"I think that, given the circumstances in which they were found, they were being kept there for dog fighting. This type of cruelty towards animals can't go on," he stressed.

He has long been insisting on the need to introduce microchipping as it would allow the owners of abandoned animals to be tracked down.

The government has said it hoped that, within the next few years, microchipping would be made obligatory. However this would have to be done following consultation with all stakeholders including animal NGOs and pet owners.

The 24-hour animal ambulance started operating at the beginning of the month following an agreement reached between Noah's Ark, which runs it, and the government that will be financing it.

Animal lovers can call on 2122 4001 to report an injured or abandoned stray animal.

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