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NEWS | Wednesday, 28 October 2009

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Aggressive animal list forgotten for seven years

The Animal Welfare Act, approved in 2002, already foresaw a ban on the importation of “aggressive” animals as pets; but the clause remained unenforceable because the government failed to issue a legal notice containing a list of dangerous animals.
Replying to MaltaToday’s questions, the Ministry for the Environment announced that in the coming weeks it will issue a list of animals that cannot be kept in Malta unless kept in a zoo which abides to rules set in another legal notice dating back to 2003.
The Animal Welfare Act already specifies that “aggressive animals which may present a danger to the safety of man or other animals and which are classified as such by the Minister shall not be bred, imported or sold in Malta”.
But no list of “aggressive animals” was ever issued. Moreover, the Ministry for the Environment is still refusing to pronounce itself on the legality of the Bengal tiger recently discovered in a Mosta warehouse.
An email asking specifically whether “the importation of the Bengal tiger recently found in a Mosta warehouse legal”, and whether the government will be taking legal action on this case, was left unanswered by the Ministry.
Although MEPA has deemed the transfer of the Bengal tiger cub from Slovakia to Malta as conforming to CITES (a United Nations convention regulating the international trade in endangered animals), the circumstances of its actual entry to Malta remains a mystery.
The Ministry has already confirmed that animals imported from EU member states are inspected upon arrival and owners are requested to inform the authorities before they the arrival date. Animals may not leave border inspection posts unless the Veterinary Checks have been carried out to the satisfaction of the competent Official Veterinarian. The Ministry had also confirmed that it had no record of the importation of big cats.
The Ministry still considers the housing of the tiger in a warehouse as “adequate for the time being as confirmed by the animal welfare officers that visited the animal”.
The animal will still be subject to scrutiny related to health and animal welfare issues.
“There is no obligation for supervision of privately owned animals by scientific bodies. The only issues that would prompt our scrutiny would be animal health and animal welfare issues,” the Ministry said.
According to the Ministry only zoos and menageries open to the public have to be party to scientific research projects.
According to a legal notice issued in 2003 zoos must accommodate their animals under conditions which aim to satisfy the biological and conservation requirements of the individual species and to maintain a high standard of animal husbandry.
They must also participate in research from which conservation benefits accrue to the species kept. Where appropriate they must also be involved in the captive breeding, repopulation or reintroduction of species into the wild. Zoos must also promote public education and awareness in relation to the conservation of biodiversity. But according to the Ministry, big cats born in captivity in zoos and circuses have no genetic value and are not included in scientific research programmes.
“One of the reasons is that they are genetically useless as most of the time the breeding programmes do not maintain the necessary population genetic isolation that is required to place these animals back in the wild.”


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