[WATCH] Assessment of proposed zoo regulations out next week, Anton Refalo promises

Animal Rights Minister Anton Refalo says an investigation into an incident at a residence in Għajnsielem where wild cats attacked a dog is ongoing

Animal Rights Minister Anton Refalo (Photo: James Bianchi/MaltaToday)
Animal Rights Minister Anton Refalo (Photo: James Bianchi/MaltaToday)

Animal Rights Minister Anton Refalo has refuted suggestions that he has been under pressure from zoo keepers over proposed legislation to control zoos and exotic animals.

"I have not been subjected to any pressure and even if so, I'm not intimidated by it. My only aim is to have just laws," Refalo told MaltaToday.

Back in November, Refalo had confirmed that an impact assessment over amendments to the zoos regulations was being carried out, and promised it would have been presented in weeks.

When asked on Wednesday about the progress, the minister stated it is almost ready and should be presented next week.

Calls for the new rules to be implemented grew in the wake of a recent incident at an Għajnsielem residence where two wild cats attacked a dog and the owner is now being investigated by the police and animal welfare officials.

"There is an ongoing investigation and possibly procedures in court, so I can't go into details. The law goes back to 2016 and a lot of time has passed since then. Amendments need to be made and I took note of what the Animal Welfare Commissioner said, and consultations are being held with all partners," Refalo said when asked about the Gozo incident.

Animal Welfare Commissioner Alison Bezzina recently said she was hopeful, but not confident that zoo cub petting would be banned, one of the original proposals made by government.

In 2020, government proposed the prohibition of big-cat cub petting at zoos in a White Paper, but relinquished it just 24 hours later following outrage by zookeeper and known Labour adherent Anton Cutajar.

Zoo regulations have so far remained the same despite the White Paper proposals. Bezzina confirmed her support for the ban but says there are strong forces in play against it.