Innocent of animal cruelty: Couple who own 49 dogs vindicated by court

Any ill-treatment the dogs had suffered occurred at the hands of the authorities, the court said, noting that the dogs had become infested with fleas whilst in the custody of the Animal Welfare

File photo.
File photo.

A couple whose 49 dogs were taken away by animal welfare officers has been cleared of animal cruelty charges after a court found that the animals had been taken good care of.

Philip and Mary Borg of Balzan had been charged with keeping animals in substandard conditions and causing animals unnecessary suffering in 2012.

In a previous sitting, Magistrate Audrey Demicoli had heard how Borg's 49 dogs were taken out of the house, one by one, by Animal Welfare Department staff, as he looked on. 

The dogs, which were then taken to Ghammieri, appeared to be in very good health except one, who the owner had said was a recently rescued stray, which was being treated.

“The rest were bomba (in fantastic condition). They were well fed. The area was clean,” former Animal Welfare Commissioner Emanuel Buhagiar had said.

In addition to the dogs, a kestrel, an eagle and several parrots were also taken away by AWS.

Testifying in December 2016, the witness had added that one of the dogs had died while in the care of animal welfare services.

The animals had eventually been returned, but the couple's lawyer Jason Grima, said this happened only after a number of them had to be put down – one dog allegedly dying after a fight with a goat while in the care of the animal welfare services.

The court observed that since the court case started, the couple had bought a warehouse in Mriehel as alternative accommodation for the dogs.

The court, presided by magistrate Audrey Demicoli, observed that it did not emerge clearly from the charges whether the pair were being charged with cruelty to animals or keeping them in substandard conditions.

“This contradiction necessarily implies that the accused cannot be found guilty of the charges as stated,” said the magistrate.

Besides this, the accused had demonstrated to the satisfaction of the court that they had treated the animals properly, fed them well and the animals themselves were certified as being in good condition.

It was clear, said the court, that any ill-treatment the dogs had suffered was at the hands of the authorities, noting that it was while they were in the custody of the Animal Welfare department that the dogs had become infested with fleas.

The couple were declared innocent.

Lawyer Jason Grima was defence counsel.

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