Fabian Demicoli

News for Pet Shops: Animal Welfare Act (CAP.439)

 GRTU welcomes L.N. 244/2013 launched in August 2013 with the  amendments to the Animal Welfare Act- Protection of Animals offered in Pet Shops in Malta and Gozo.

GRTU is totally in favour of increased animal protection and condemns without reservation abuse, neglect and cruelty on any species. GRTU however felt the need to intervene after various meetings with its members as certain aspects of the law would have heavily burdened pet shop owners making certain aspects of their business unsustainable.

 

 GRTU, Malta Chamber of SMEs, representing pet shops has led the authorities to accept  amendments to the law without essentially reducing the level of increased animal protection for which was the aim of this law in the first place.

 

 GRTU welcomes the new law as it will indeed mean an increase in the level of protection of animals and as the Authorities themselves confirmed most of the pet shops will only need to make minor amendments to facilitate inspection.

 

 GRTU also welcomes this law as it will put anyone selling an animal, be it from a pet shop, a private residence and a website in a position of breach of law should they go against any part of it.

 

 This law also establish a level playing field which till now was very lacking as pet shops were regularly inspected while other individuals selling animals were most of the time ignored.

The most important change this law will bring about relates to record keeping. GRTU proposed and  its proposal was accepted to limit record keeping to the species which need it most as some species enter and exit the pet shop too frequently to keep records of. Record keeping is important as it can shed light on repetitive problems within an establishment and provide a tracking system, should a problem with a particular species arise.

Purchasing records (the invoice) would be kept but when it comes to sale records they would be kept only for cats, dogs, ferrets, horses, poultry and all other animals included in the Registration of Exotic Animals Regulations, 2010. This diminished the bureaucratic burden significantly and maintains record keeping where it is most needed.

Another bureaucratic and costly burden that was alleviated was the requirement of having a VET verify all the mortalities. This now will be done only for mortalities in access of 10% of individual species. Had this requirement been maintained the veterinary inspection would cost much more than most of the animals themselves, jeopradising the sustainability of pet shops.

Another heavy requirement in the law was the long acclimatization period for all animal species when entering the pet shop. These were considered too long and might have involved the pet shop needing a significant amount of extra space for quarantine. This is now reduced to 2 days for birds and others, 12hrs for fish and 0hrs for chickens. A proposal accepted was to exclude hand reared parrots from the requirement of not selling animals that are not weaned this because there is a specific niche market that requires these birds before being weaned due to the bonding of the bird with its owner. Also accepted was the change of wording that was proposed which leads to less stringent cleaning impositions which are now more related to need. Similarly the working was arranged to replacing of food when needed which means that dry food can be kept for longer periods than soft food.

The GRTU together with the relevant institutions will be working on establishing the relevant qualification requirements and ensuring that pet shops having years of experience are treated and assessed on their experience and given the necessary recognition. The GRTU also emphasized that the  approach should be one to guide and teach. The authorities confirmed that inspectors were being coached into this attitude. In the meantime any complaints in this regard should be addressed to the Authority for immediate action.

Work is still ongoing however, GRTU, would like to thank its members for their support, the authorities especially Dr Anthony Gruppetta for the excellent consultation and openness to understand the different situations and requirements of the sector.

 

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