Animal Welfare Director asked to resign after delayed action on Msida pit bull attack

Parliamentary Secretary Alicia Bugeja Said is ‘fed up’ with animal welfare chief’s lack of action on animal abuse cases, MaltaToday is informed

Patricia Azzopardi
Patricia Azzopardi

Updated at 9am with Patricia Azzopardi reaction

Animal Welfare Director Patricia Azzopardi has been asked to resign over lack of action on a number of animal abuse cases, MaltaToday can reveal.

The tipping point seems to have been her lack of action on the ongoing situation surrounding the pit bull attack on owner Andre Galea on Monday morning, sources close to government said.

Other dogs owned by Galea were left more than 24 hours without food or water after he was left hospitalised after the attack.

The Animal Welfare Director, if present on site, has the legal powers to enter a private residence if they have reasonable suspicion that animals are not being kept in the right environment.

Sources who spoke to this newspaper said Parliamentary Secretary for Animal Welfare Alicia Bugeja Said grew increasingly frustrated with how Azzopardi was dealing with the case.

“The parliamentary secretary had to personally intervene in order for the dogs to be removed from Galea’s house,” sources told MaltaToday. “She was fed up with her attitude.”

Sources also said the request for Azzopardi’s resignation will be part of a wider reform for the Animal Welfare Department.

Azzopardi was appointed to the role in 2021 after former Animal Welfare Director, Noel Montebello, vacated the post.

The ministry on Wednesday announced that authorities will be carrying out an autopsy on the bully breed dog killed by Andre Galea after it attacked him.

MaltaToday was the first to reveal on Wednesday morning that Andre Galea used a knife to kill one of the pit bulls which attacked him outside his Msida home.

Sources said one of the two pit bulls involved in the incident was stabbed with a knife and killed by Galea shortly after they turned against him.  

The ministry also confirmed that the dogs involved in the incident were not the same dogs involved in the September 2020 incident. Galea’s grandmother was mauled to death by one of his dogs while at their home.

Azzopardi denies claims of delays in taking action

The Animal Welfare Director, Patricia Azzopardi, contested claims of delays in taking action, citing safety concerns.

“I was not going to put any AWD personnel in danger by just sending to the house where they would have to face these dangerous dogs. So I sent them to hospital to speak to the owner instead, who then sent another person familiar with the dogs, who brought them out one by one. I was there personally.”

Azzopardi said the safety of personnel was paramount in the course of action she understook.

“We are also lacking staff and space to keep these dangerous dogs. Our dog section is not yet complete, which means I had to find private kennels to take in the dogs. Am I expectd to put my own people at risk to face such dogs? We would like to collect every single dangerous dog, but we cannot do it without space to keep them and the staff to do it.”