Animal welfare acted according to law in euthanized pit bull case, investigation finds

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An investigation into the Animal Welfare Directorate and its practice of euthanizing very aggressive dogs revealed that the agency had acted legitimately and in good faith.

The Office of the Animal Welfare Commissioner opened the investigation in August after reports online suggested that several pitbull dogs had been shot by AWD. The dogs were shot for aggressive behavior.

The investigation indicated that despite video and photographic evidence showing some of the dogs in a docile and calm state, in all of the cases examined there was evidence that the assault observed at AWD was in fact serious.

All of the euthanized dogs fell in the red zone of the British Small Animal Veterinary Association’s (BSAVA) aggression scale, one of the cases presenting aggression accompanied by insurmountable physical suffering.

The report says that between January 2021 and September 2021, AWD took in 231 dogs, nine of which were euthanized for aggressive behavior. The nine euthanized dogs were primarily mixtures of pit bulls and large breeds considered dangerous by the AWD.

For each of these dogs, AWD provided a detailed incident report signed by three people or a medical report from the APH Veterinary Hospital.

The report said AWD had a legal, ethical and moral duty to deal with unprovoked and serious attacks against humans and other animals.

However, the Animal Welfare Commissioner said that before considering euthanasia, every effort should be made to rehabilitate a dog with aggression issues. The Commissioner recommended that AWD’s resources be reviewed and increased significantly to ensure that this is done safely and with some degree of success.

“Given the resources currently available to AWD, handling these cases appropriately without resorting to euthanasia would have been so restrictive that it would have seriously compromised the dogs’ quality of life, the safety of staff and volunteers, as well as ‘other animals at AWD, the report says.

He went on to say that when euthanasia was performed it was done to avoid additional stress caused by travel and unfamiliar surroundings. “It is the Board’s belief that the proceedings were conducted in the most dignified and thoughtful manner,” according to the report.

Regarding the option of exporting aggressive behaving dogs to specialist sanctuaries on board, the commissioner said that while this was discussed and looked promising “theoretically”, the investigation concluded that the option remained vague. , without a practical or realistic way to implement it.

“The claim that AWD may implement a systematic approach to euthanize pit bulls has been completely dispelled,” the report said.

The commission said the investigation revealed that AWD had no intention of covering up these cases of euthanasia since in most cases management voluntarily informed the volunteers involved in the case.

However, the report states that the lack of transparency and active communication with the public, in this case, was one of the main reasons that led to such public concern and outrage. Early social media reports also led to a protest outside AWD neighborhoods in Luqa.

The report concluded that it was “amply clear” that most of those involved in the investigation shared a “sincere and unassuming love for animals”.

“It is clear to the board that AWD’s current management is doing their best to improve the situation and reverse the unfavorable reputation it has inherited,” the report said.

READ ALSO: Animal Welfare Directorate denies putting pitbulls to sleep because of their breed

Survey recommendations

  • An open fenced area at Animal Welfare (Ghammieri) should be provided for dogs to run free, let off steam and serve as an observation and training area prior to placement.
  • Employees working with animals should be recruited more selectively. In addition to meeting certain criteria on paper, they must pass an aptitude test and receive regular in-house training and training.
  • AWD should not rely on volunteers to provide basic necessities such as dog walking. Volunteers should only be used as a bonus after basic staffing requirements have been met
  • Dogs with a history of aggression should only be walked by experienced volunteers / staff who should wear a visibility vest instructing passers-by to ‘stay away’
  • A qualified and experienced dog behaviorist / trainer should be brought in regularly, and not just when the need arises.
  • Given the urgent nature and the need for this, the Council of Veterinary Surgeons should prioritize the regularization of behaviorists and trainers under the Veterinary Services Act.
  • The Animal Welfare Directorate should have its own online presence to communicate with the public
  • A long term goal should be to create a rehabilitation center to deal specifically with aggressive and capricious dogs.
  • Dog breeding, in general, should be tightly controlled and the law amended to avoid loopholes and curb irresponsible breeding.
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