MaltaToday | 06 April 2008 | Gozo SPCA may be forced to shut down

NEWS | Sunday, 06 April 2008

Gozo SPCA may be forced to shut down

David Darmanin

The new kennelling regulations in the forthcoming Animal Welfare Act may leave no other option for the Gozo branch of the animal protection society SPCA to shut down.
According to the centre’s manager Betty Berry, the current SPCA quarters in Gozo don’t physically allow any development or enlargement. “There are also issues with parking, and also considering that we are based in a residential area, our only option is to relocate.”
She acknowledged that the Gozo SPCA supports the new animal welfare law, which lays down enforceable standards for the care of animals, including the kennelling of dogs and cats.
However, “due to limited space, the current premises cannot conform to the regulations while remaining a viable service to the community.”
Insisting the announcement was “deliberately left until after elections, to avoid politicising the issue”, Berry said the Gozo SPCA had enough money to cover costs for the construction of a new premises, from a sum it received for this purpose and other fundraising initiatives.
“What we need is the land. We have been collaborating with the Ministry of Gozo to find a site on which to build, but so far we haven’t been successful. It is important to note that we’re not holding the Ministry of Gozo responsible for this problem, as we have received substantial support from government over the years, including when it came to address the relocation problem.”
Asked whether she felt the ministry dragged its feet on this issue, Berry chose her words very carefully. “This issue is a priority to us. We are facing this problem day-in, day-out. Perhaps when you are not so involved in the situation it is understandable that there is not the same sense of urgency,” she said.
But although the Gozo SPCA has earmarked a couple of sites for the new premises, Berry said the association is facing “terrible restrictions” on where the new centre can be built.
“Due to the nature of our work, the area on which we build can neither be residential nor inaccessible. We have been working over the past 20 years on this.”
The government recently assisted the Malta SPCA, which faced the same problem, in identifying space for an animal welfare centre in Ta’ Qali.
Malta SPCA president Barbara Cassar Toreggiani told MaltaToday: “We were the ones pushing for the new animal protection regulations. We may have had to face the same problems as the Gozo SPCA, but we got the space, and now we need to find the money to get it going. With regards to the Gozo SPCA, although we are not attached, we are very much behind them on this issue – as we can very much understand the problems they are facing.
“The issue at stake is simple. They also need an animal welfare centre. They’re very capable of running it and they also have the money to set it up. All Betty is asking for is the land, so why not give it to her?”
Asked whether the SPCA in Malta may suffer from repercussions if the Gozo SPCA had to close down, Cassar Torreggiani said: “For sure. It would just create more problems for us, as our workload would increase.”

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