New zoo regulations are out for public consultation at last

Animal Rights Ministry publishes draft legal notice introducing tighter rules on zoos that will, among others, ban the petting of animals • Public consultation ends on 7 December

Stricter regulations for zoos will be introduced under proposed new rules
Stricter regulations for zoos will be introduced under proposed new rules

New zoo regulations imposing tighter controls on zoos, including a ban on the petting of animals, have finally been published for public consultation.

The legal notice will completely overhaul the 2003 regulations titled The Keeping of Wild Animals in Zoos.

Under the proposed regime, the touching of wild animals by visitors, a staple attraction of zoos in Malta, will become illegal. Proposed amendments include the microchipping of animals in zoos and the introduction of a compulsory insurance policy.

The new rules also propose that the breeding of wild animals be made illegal, unless exempted by the chief veterinary. But exemptions, which will need to be listed and specified by the veterinary directorate, will include breeding for conservation and scientific purposes. 

Animals being kept in zoos must also be neutered and the legislation will require zoos to have 24-hour CCTV footage of animal enclosures.

The proposed amendments will also make it necessary for zoos to have the necessary planning permits before being authorised as such.

Zookeepers had riled against certain aspects of the new rules, particularly the prohibition of animal petting, which represents an attraction and a source of income for them.

The ban on contact between big cat cubs and other wild animals with visitors is being done from an animal welfare perspective.

The draft legal notice was initially announced on 12 October but was never published on government’s public consultation website.

Animal Rights Minister Anton Refalo had blamed the budget’s timing for his ministry’s decision not to publish the public consultation.

The public consultation on the draft legal notice will remain open until 7 December and anyone interested can make submissions here.