Pack of dogs attacking cats

This 'vicious' dog was tranquillised before escaping.

This 'vicious' dog was tranquillised before escaping.

Residents in the Swieqi area have expressed concern over a pack of vicious dogs which are killing a number of domesticated cats.

Both the SPCA and Swieqi council confirmed that a number of residents have complained about the dogs roaming the area.

In the last week alone, at least four cats and a goat were killed by the dogs, which, according to witnesses, were roaming in packs of five to 15.

"We would like to catch them because the problem is spiralling out of control," a spokesman for the SPCA told The Sunday Times.

Daniela Galea from St Andrew's was devastated after she found her cats mauled to death.

"After investing so much love, care and attention I never expected to find my cats dead in my own garden. They had become part of the family. The dogs actually jumped over a secured gate. We now fear for our safety. What if there was a young child playing in that garden? What chances would it stand against these aggressive dogs?"

Mario Spiteri, director of animal welfare, was forced to use his dart gun to tranquilise an enraged dog in Pembroke last week - but as the tranquiliser wore off, the dog still managed to escape before it could be transported.

Despite limited resources, Dr Spiteri insisted that his team was doing its utmost to deal with the situation - around 19 dogs which were causing a nuisance had been caught - but the problem persists in a country with insufficient animal shelter facilities.

The answer lies mainly in neutering and more enforcement to ensure dog owners do not abandon their pets, Dr Spiteri said.

Reports of dog attacks on cats are received at all hours of the day but there are no rescuers or mobile squad car units available to intervene.

However, he advised against extremism - insisting there was no cause for alarm - though warned that all dogs in the street should be regarded as potentially dangerous. Likewise, residents should stop harbouring unsafe animals.

"When dogs are on their own they are often calm and loving. When they move in packs they become a hunting machine. We have to be careful before re-homing dogs with a history. Our remit is to protect dogs from all harm, but we have to deal with vicious dogs as well to make sure residents are safe," Dr Spiteri said.

Swieqi council executive secretary Hugh Zammit said the problem emerged some three years ago when two dogs in Triq tal-Franċiż appeared to be out of control. Since then the number of dogs moving around in packs has increased and a number of cats were attacked - as was a young girl. Each report is forwarded to the police, Mr Zammit said. When contacted, the police said they were investigating the reports.

The SPCA insisted that only a couple of dogs roaming around in packs were strays and expressed concern that several animals actually have owners who allow them out.

It is a normal characteristic for dogs to follow their 'leaders' and sometimes they might act aggressively towards other animals.

An SPCA spokesman urged the public to try to do their utmost to contain potentially dangerous dogs in an enclosed area. Only last Thursday, SPCA staff tried to locate the pack responsible for killing the cats, but to no avail. The SPCA called for a 24-hour enforcement team which could round up these dogs.

"Dumping of pet dogs is occurring daily as many owners seem to have little regard for the welfare of these animals. All sanctuaries and shelters are full - and have been for over a year," the association said.

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