Animal Welfare Commissioner wants strict breeding controls on pit bulls and bully breeds

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Animal farming must be tightly controlled with laws in place to tackle irresponsible farming, the Animal Welfare Commissioner recommended in his year-end report.

Alison Bezzina, Animal Welfare Commissioner, highlighted several findings, recommendations and key takeaways in the 2021 year-end report.

Among the recommendations reported concerned animal husbandry. The recommendation was part of a wider investigation into the Animal Welfare Directorate (AWD) and its practice of euthanizing aggressive dogs.

The investigation was led by the Office of the Animal Welfare Commissioner after online reports suggested that several pit bull dogs had been put down by the AWD due to aggressive behavior.

The office concluded that the AWD had acted legitimately and in good faith, while making 10 recommendations to the ministry responsible for animal welfare.

“With immediate effect, it is recommended that the minister exercise his right to strictly control the breeding and importation of pitbull and bully breeds, at least until the situation improves,” the report recommends.

The commissioner also recommended that dogs with a history of aggression be walked by experienced volunteers, wearing a visibility vest telling passers-by to stay away.

He requested that a qualified canine behaviorist be brought in to animal welfare on a regular basis to identify problems in advance.

Another recommendation implemented is that employees working with animals be recruited in a more discriminating manner. “In addition to meeting certain criteria on paper, they must pass an aptitude test and benefit from regular induction and internal training. Volunteers must be assessed for their experience and receive internal training before being allowed to come into contact with animals.

A recommendation is still being discussed with the ministry to establish the minimum time a dog should spend in AWD and a minimum number of aggressive incidents a dog should be involved in before euthanasia is considered.

Bezzina also reported that the lack of space in the sanctuaries and the Directorate’s refuge in Għammieri prevented the reception of injured dogs and the suspension of non-emergency inspections.

She mentioned the limited human resources available at AWD, pointing out that the sector cannot rely on volunteers to cover basic necessities like dog walking. “Without proper and timely recruitment of these personnel, the Directorate’s enforcement and rescue operations cannot function properly,” Bezzina noted.

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