[WATCH] Budget timing forced animal rights ministry not to publish zoos public consultation

Animal Rights Minister Anton Refalo says public consultation on new rules for zoos will be extended to allow for more feedback from people

Animal Rights Minister Anton Refalo
Animal Rights Minister Anton Refalo

Animal Rights Minister Anton Refalo has blamed the budget’s timing for his ministry’s decision not to publish a public consultation on zoo regulations despite announcing it a couple of weeks ago.

“The public consultation has not started due to the fact that it was announced a week or so preceding the budget, and due to people’s interest in participating in the consultation we decided to publish it at a later date,” the minister said.

The initial announcement over the draft legal notice was made two weeks ago, with the consultation period closing on Tuesday 27 October.

Questions by MaltaToday over the ministry’s hesitation to publish the legal notice on government’s public consultation website remained unanswered for the past two weeks.

As well as changing the date in which the public consultation had to be published, Refalo said the ministry is now planning to extend the consultation period.

Asked whether a notice had been issued by government over the consultation’s delay, the minister said that he didn’t know about any announcements from the ministry’s end.

Refalo also denied having any backlash from Cabinet members over his decision to announce the public consultation.

He also refused to say whether he has the Cabinet’s full backing over the proposed regulations, which were meant to strengthen animal welfare rules in zoos.

“I cannot reveal Cabinet discussions,” he said.

READ ALSO: Zookeeping rules still not yet published

Reacting to the new legislation, Wild Life Park owner Chris Borg had expressed his displeasure at government’s proposals.

“I cannot understand how the minister never came here, never consulted with us, and now issues new regulations. At a time when we need help the most, they lay out more hurdles,” he said.

Anton Cutajar from Noah’s Arc in Siggiewi had also voiced his criticism at government’s proposal to banning the touching of wild animals, but had expressed his approval at better regulation for zoos.

The minister also refused to speak about reactions he received from zoo owners, stating that government will be listening to the contrasting views and taking a decision when the consultation process closes.

One of the proposed regulations which received flak from zoo owners was that of banning the petting of wild animals.

Asked if he still stands by such a proposal, the minister said he does in principle, but will continue to listen to people’s concerns over the issue.

“It doesn’t matter what I believe in, what matters is that we push forward what is right for this sector,” the minister concluded.

READ ALSO: Petting of tiger cubs at zoos to become illegal under proposed changes