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Irresponsible dog owners “running amok,” say animal NGOs

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Irresponsible dog owners "running amok," say animal NGOsFive animal NGOs, in a joint statement have argued that, “lack of enforcement is leading to an unsustainable situation, with irresponsible dog owners running amok.”

NGOs MSPCA, Gozo SPCA, Noah’s Ark Dog Sanctuary, SASG and Animal Care Malta, said that “responsible dog ownership is the practice of providing all of the dog’s needs, while protecting the welfare of individuals and the community from nuisance and harm, thus taking responsibility of the animal’s welfare and impact on others.”

They pointed out that Malta has a number of regulations for dog owners which include compulsory micro-chipping, registration, ID tagging, and compulsory leashing when in public, as well as requirement to carry pooh bags and clean up after dogs among other things.

“Animal NGOs are constantly being contacted by concerned or irate members of the public who have either been attacked by an off leash dog, or have an issue with dog pooh littering their pavement, or have a neighbour who refuses to do something about the dog barking all day and night, just to name a few,” the NGOs said.

According to the NGOs, “in such situations it is common that the person has tried seeking assistance from the animal welfare department or even the police, only to find out that the very people tasked with enforcing such laws lack the will to do so and even discourage people from filing an official report.”

“NGOs also get involved when an abandoned animal is brought in without identification or whose chip number is not registered,” they said. “This makes it difficult to identify the owner, which often only happens after the legal holding period and long after the animal has been rehomed, causing a lot of grief and complications for everyone involved.”

They added that, “more often than not though, we suspect the animal was not chipped intentionally so that it cannot be traced to its abandoner.”

The NGOs said that they believe that these situations could be reduced or even eliminated if the laws on dog ownership were upheld and enforced appropriately, “and if people used a little common sense.”

“There have been many occasions when the police insist, threateningly, that a dog that is not registered be returned to the person who reports it missing and claims ownership, while no action is taken against the defaulter despite a fine being prescribed by the law,” the NGOs said.

The NGOs argued that “fewer dogs would turn up with a non-registered microchip, and even fewer abandoned, if microchipping and registration was enforced rigorously.”

“If your dog does not come back when called; If you cannot see your dog after it runs off because you are in a bendy narrow country lane, then you have no business letting them off leash, especially if it is an area where you are likely to run into other people and people walking their dogs or near roads,” they said.

“Telling people your dog is safe, when it is clearly raising its heckles, showing off its teeth and fails to return to you when called, exposes you as a liar,” stated the NGOs

“It has become common to see dogs straying with their owner’s blessing at music festivals and family events with police at the events turning a blind eye. It’s unfair to other people and to the dog who can easily get lost, poisoned, stolen, injured or abused.”

The NGOs appealed to the public to “fulfil their obligations as pet owners, not only chase their rights. But our major appeal is to the government to review its law enforcement strategy with regards to the animal welfare act and its subsidiaries.”

“The current situation is becoming unsustainable, especially where people and dogs are getting injured and those complaining about dog fouling and nuisance barking are finding absolutely no support from the authorities,” they said.

The five NGOs concluded by calling on the government to publish how many relevant fines were issued in the years since the coming into force of the Electronic Identification of Dogs Regulations.

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