First of all it is a pleasure to be here this morning. The fact that we are launching a neutering programme is very positive. As Mr. Bardon has said, I had the opportunity to visit Noah’s Ark around three or four weeks ago now. And I have to thank you for the sterling work that you are doing notwithstanding the limited resources that you have. Allow me to also thank ITV Grenzenlos of Germany to come forward to give this donation. The coordination of NGOs and the veterinary profession in providing assistance in the neutering of strays and hence the controlling of the stray population in the Maltese islands is definitely commendable from our side. The Ministry has been working on a number of initiatives. Allow me to say that the Animal Welfare Act has given the State new powers that the State has never had before with regards to animal welfare. SO in the last year two major cases were actually started off in court against people who had very evidently made acts of cruelty towards animals. Now we can discuss if those two cases should have been five or ten cases but definitely a step forward one has to acknowledge that that was a step forward. With regards to the Animal Welfare Council allow me to say that we are actually working on a number of amendments of the Animal Welfare Act in order to strengthen the Animal Welfare Council itself. We are also working on using the possibility of using the local wardens as provided within the Local Councils Act as well as the Animal Welfare Act where we can actually use local wardens' enforcement officers with regards to animal welfare. And we are discussing this already with the Local Councils Association in order to implement the provision that is already there within the Animal Welfare Act. If we manage to do that then the number of officers on the streets or in the countryside which will be able to detect cruelty to animals will definitely increase and hopefully we will also find the cooperation of the local councils to implement this important measure. Allow me to say as well that the government is preparing a stray control programme for the Maltese Islands which will take off with the microchipping of stray dogs found in sanctuaries. We intend to start off with dogs in sanctuaries and then move out with microchipping other dogs. The programme also incorporates medication standards practiced in these sanctuaries and the introduction of a quarantine area for the new strays brought in to the sanctuaries. With regards to premises I have answered a parliamentary question this week to one of the government members of parliament and the answer was very simple. The government is not in a position to provide premises for each and every animal welfare organisation. We are working in order to have an animal welfare centre centrally placed in Malta which would give all the organisations the possibility of an after care clinic for health. And I simply hope that rather than having one organisation running it eventually, and this will also be one of the amendments that I will be pushing forward at cabinet level with regards to animal welfare is that we intend to set up an animal welfare foundation. Instead of having just a council which gives advice to the government on animal welfare we will be having, hopefully, an animal welfare foundation which will be the implementing hand of NGOs in Malta. In order to get some common action going on because my biggest disappointment regarding animal welfare in this country is that we have too many detached animal welfare organisations acting in different directions. But it’s about time that we get one foundation which will be responsible for all financing going towards animal welfare in Malta. But we will have other opportunities to discuss the setting up of the animal welfare foundation. But our idea is that implementation with regards of animal welfare will be in the hands of such a foundation which will obviously involve NGOS. Allow me lastly to say that consultations are being held with regard to animal welfare.

Minister George Pullicino

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