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Animals facing another dangerous summer in sun

Amendments to Animal Welfare Act might not be made in time

The Animal Welfare Directorate receives over 1,000 reports of animal cruelty every year. Photo: Shutterstock

The Animal Welfare Directorate receives over 1,000 reports of animal cruelty every year. Photo: Shutterstock

Animals could be facing another dangerous summer of being left out in the baking sun, Animal Welfare Commissioner Emanuel Buhagiar has warned.

Last year, the Times of Malta reported how the government was drafting legal amendments to close loopholes in the Animal Welfare Act.

Although the Act outlaws negligence, animal rights campaigners have long complained that the definition of maltreatment in the law is too vague.
Mr Buhagiar said that that although the amendments were now in Parliament, the legal dilemmas could persist through the warmer months as they may not be made into law before the House closes for the summer recess.

“The problem is that this matter started being addressed prior the 2017 election, but then the election got in the way, followed by the appointment of a new Cabinet, so these things take time,” he said.

Mr Buhagiar later added that some forms of animal cruelty were punishable through the Animal Welfare Act and offenders faced penalties from time to time.

The Animal Welfare Directorate receives over 1,000 reports of animal cruelty every year, almost all related to animals being left outdoors for long periods without any protection.

The spike in reports normally starts around June and keeps climbing as temperatures rise throughout the sweltering summer. Mr Buhagiar said that he too receives about 400 reports every year, mostly about animals being left in the sun.

“We get calls, people show up at the office, and we even get anonymous letters,” he said, adding that he had last year received a petition on the subject signed by 15,000 people.

Asked if the legal reform would be completed before the summer parliamentary recess, a spokesman for the Animal Rights parliamentary secretariat said it was in the process of finalising amendments but gave no deadline.

The spokesman added that the government was also increasing penalties for offences related to the mistreatment of animals.

“The maltreatment of animals remains a deplorable action which the parliamentary secretariat is addressing through a number of measures, from a legal perspective, awareness and also enforcement,” he said.

He said legislation already provided for provisions to “punish acts of ill-treatment in their regard” and said that throughout the year thousands of inspections were carried, as well as prosecutions where applicable.

Meanwhile, the Animal Welfare Directorate will implement further enforcement and awareness measures throughout the summer months. Some 24 officers are expected to be deployed on various patrols at different shifts, the spokesman said, with a particular focus on animals left unshielded from direct sunlight.

The directorate also urged the public to contact it on 1717 with any reports of the mistreatment of animals.

Editorial Note: The original version of this story included erroneous references to reported amendments.

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