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Animal sanctuaries shun Ta’ Qali hospital

Animal sanctuaries are glad the Ta’ Qali animal hospital is open round the clock but high prices put it beyond their reach. Photo: Matthew Mirabelli

Animal sanctuaries are glad the Ta’ Qali animal hospital is open round the clock but high prices put it beyond their reach. Photo: Matthew Mirabelli

Animal sanctuaries are not taking sick or injured strays to the Ta’ Qali animal hospital claiming prices are too high even though they are discounted.

It is unfortunate that animals cannot be admitted directly to the centre by well-meaning people

While glad the hospital is open round the clock, sanctuaries are disappointed as they had hoped the San Franġisk after-care centre, which opened almost a year ago, would have helped them by cutting some costs. “But nothing has changed for us NGOs since the hospital opened,” said Silvia Zammit from Island Sanctuary.

In December 2008, when the hospital was still under construction, Rural Affairs Minister George Pullicino had said the project would be the answer to the prayers of animal organisations that were stretched to the limit.

Sanctuaries had been told that once the hospital opened they would be charged discounted rates.

Although they are given a 20 per cent discount, prices remain too high for sanctuaries that often depend on donations.

Mark Vella Bardon, from Noah’s Ark, said the government had told them it would publish a list of prices but this was never issued. At a result, they were not sure what prices they should be paying. He said his organisation did not use the hospital due to the high fees.

“I can’t say it’s as expensive as a vet clinic but for sanctuaries it’s too expensive,” he said adding that on a positive note it was good to have a hospital that was open 24 hours a day.

Only strays taken in by the Animal Welfare Department are granted free care. As a result, if someone finds a wounded animal in the road and takes it to the hospital, the person is charged for the medical costs.

SPCA president Barbara Cassar Torreggiani said the after-care centre was meant to be the solution for strays found run over or simply in distress “because one cannot expect the public always to foot the bill”.

“It is unfortunate that animals cannot be admitted directly to the centre by well-meaning people (without incurring a cost). Often, the animal does not survive the waiting time for the ambulance,” she said, adding that SPCA too did not use the hospital’s services because of the high prices.

Romina Formosa, from the Abandoned Animals’ Association, suggested that the government set up a credit system that allowed sanctuaries limited credit to use at the hospital. This would help sanctuaries while controlling the system, she said.

Last week, the Labour Party spokesman on animal welfare, Gino Cauchi, said pet owners were having to pay hundreds of euros for veterinary services when they had been told fees would be nominal. He said prices were so high animal sanctuaries that benefited from a discount were opting to go elsewhere.

Vet Trevor Zammit, who was awarded the tender to run the animal hospital, said he set his prices according to the competition. The centre examined about 100 animals a day, the vast majority being strays taken in by the Animal Welfare Department and, therefore, fees had to be charged to make up for the costs.

Dr Zammit added that all the equipment at the centre, costing about €300,000, belonged to him and he also had to pay tax and salaries.

Questions sent to the Rural Affairs Ministry remained unanswered at the time of writing.

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