In spite of having taken up Dr Ronald Cuschieri’s kind invitation to visit Wied Incita for the purpose of being able to verify that the San Anton cats are indeed happy and well in their new environment, I regret to say that I remain unconvinced of the true fate of the San Anton felines. At least sixteen cats were removed from San Anton Gardens but feeding time at Wied Incita – a time at which any cat feeder will confirm that the majority of the colony will congregate at a particular feeding place - produced the grand total of exactly four felines only a single one of which was a previous San Anton resident.
As such, the fact remains that the voluntary San Anton cat carers have by no means had their fears allayed nor have they managed to locate their old “charges.” A meeting with Dr Cuschieri, General Manager of the Environmental Landscapes Consortium (ELC), revealed cause for further concern since despite the latter’s assurances to your readers that “everything was done in the most humane way possible” (TOM 28/10/2004), when pressed for information as to the manner in which the cats were trapped and transported, Dr Cuschieri had absolutely no idea as to the methods that had been used. A negative reply was also received in response to the query as to whether proper supervision had been provided throughout the whole operation.
Indeed, such was the lack of concern of the individuals who orchestrated the whole affair that a mother cat was removed and her kittens left behind to fend for themselves whilst a thirteen-year-old female cat that was under regular treatment for gingivitis was forced to undergo the traumatic experience without a thought to her advanced age and condition.
It also remains unclear under whose authority the cats were removed, since the fact that the ELC is responsible for the upkeep and maintenance of the gardens does not automatically afford the Consortium the right to do as it will with the felines therein. In fact, the undersigned is in receipt of a communication from the Council for Animal Welfare to the effect that “owned strays are under the responsibility of who cares for them.” The implications of such a statement in relation to the actions of the ELC are obvious – the Consortium has acted well beyond its remit.
All in all, one cannot help but conclude that the removal process was carried out in a haphazard fashion and anyone who has the cats’ welfare at heart cannot help but call upon the authorities to investigate the matter and to ensure that all the relevant provisions of the Animal Welfare Act have not been breached. This piece of legislation, though limited to say the least, contains a clear definition of ill-treatment, provides inter alia that “Animals shall not be caused any unnecessary pain, suffering or distress…” and also sets out the penalties to be imposed where it is found that acts in violation of Chapter 439 of the Laws of Malta have been committed.
The said Act further provides that the “State shall endeavour... to protect the life of animals and to prevent and punish acts of ill-treatment in their regard,” that the “State recognises… that the welfare of animals is to be protected through the intervention of the State through its legislative, judicial and administrative organs,” and also “that it is its duty to promote the culture of respect towards animals.” May I therefore call upon the powers that be to ensure that the stipulations of the Animal Welfare Act are applied to the letter.
May I also call upon the Council for Animal Welfare, which has apparently adopted the maxim that silence is golden, to be true to its designation and take up the cause of these dumb creatures who have been treated so shabbily.
Dr Katrina Borg-Cardona