Government proposing list of dangerous dog breeds in animal welfare amendments

The amendments include a new definition of 'circus' and an internal register of animal welfare offenders

Government is proposing to draft a list of dangerous dog breeds in new amendments to Malta’s animal welfare law.

The Bill makes several changes to Malta’s animal welfare laws, including a new definition of ‘circus’ and an internal register of animal welfare offenders.

Parliament convened on Wednesday to discuss the Bill for the first time since it was tabled in October for a first reading.

Among the proposals is a clause that allows the Minister to draft a list of certain dog breeds that are considered to be dangerous and rules on how these dog breeds are to be regulated.

During the parliamentary debate, Opposition MP Janice Chetcuti pointed out that no dog breeds are inherently more dangerous than others, a point that has been argued by many animal welfare activists.

Such activists argue that it is the upbringing of the dog that leads it to become dangerous or aggressive, rather than the breed.

Another proposal listed in the Bill is to do away with notification periods for urgent animal welfare searches.

The law provides for a 24-hour notice period that must be given by authorities to inspect and investigate a welfare offence in a dwelling house.  

However, Animal Rights Minister Anton Refalo said that this has been counterproductive, and so will no longer apply for urgent inspections.

He added that government is also seeking to allow the Animal Welfare Directorate to collaborate with private organisations and NGOs to help it in its work.

Under the new law, the definition of “circus” will be widened to mean any exhibition put on for profit, and viewed by the public for entertainment, whereby animals are made to perform tricks or manoeuvres that do not reflect their natural behaviour and offer no educational value.

However, the Bill provides for an exception when animals are used as props or extras in artistic, theatrical or cinematic performances, sporting competitions, or any other event approved by the Director for Veterinary Services.

Chetcuti found fault with this exception. She argued that animal mistreatment remains mistreatment even if it is approved by an authority. If government wants to forbid abusive practices against animals, she said it should do so completely and without exception.

She also pointed out that the Bill makes no reference to animal breeding or pet grooming.

Meanwhile, Opposition MP Albert Buttigieg noted that the current law provides an exception to the hunting or killing of animals in a wild state. He argued that government should remove this provision from the law, as “we would be literally acknowledging that some animals are more equal than others”.