A pilot project for Animal Welfare Stewards in selected local councils will be tasked with educating animal owners on legal requirements and reporting cases where animal abuse is suspected to animal welfare authorities .
The proposal is part of a draft National Animal Welfare Strategy for rules for animal breeders, pet shops, as well as boarding, training, grooming, veterinary and farrier services for a wide range of species in menageries and private zoos.
The policy asks potential pet owners to be informed of breed-specific requirements before owning or adopting animals to avoid abandonment, the policy says in its introduction.
“Increased monitoring through legally required microchipping and ID tag can also deter abandonment if owners are found and made responsible for the care and needs of their pets.”
“Prospective owners should be aware of the potential costs associated with owning certain breeds to avoid unsustainable financial burdens that would be detrimental to animal health. Breed-specific conditions range from hip dysplasia to spinal abnormalities, with brachiocephalic breeds having predispositions to heart and respiratory disease. Education campaigns on the importance of repatriation could be another area of focus,” the policy document states.
This is the second such public consultation, after the Department of Agriculture failed to launch rules tackling Maltese zoos and the keeping of exotic animals in the face of resistance from keepers of zoo.
Minister Anton Refalo said the strategy will build partnerships with stakeholders and provide an effective and coherent national approach to improving animal welfare.
A national animal welfare education campaign and neutering program have already been launched, along with the establishment of cat cafes and dog parks in coordination with local councils.
“We tried to include stakeholders with diverse opinions who may not always agree with us, but who will help us create this strategy and vision for the next five years,” Refalo said.
Animal Welfare Parliamentary Secretary Alicia Bugeja said the strategy includes proposals for a pet cemetery.
“The further intention of this document is to stimulate a healthy debate between all stakeholders and consumers; in turn offering everyone the opportunity to actively participate in this public consultation process by submitting their experiences and proposals that could be considered important to include in the framework of the National Strategy for Animal Welfare.