Updated 6.30pm with Bugeja Said comment

Animal Welfare officers swooped on a residence in Zebbuġ on Wednesday morning, rescuing 27 dogs being kept in appalling conditions.

The dogs, which included two litters of puppies and their mothers, were found chained up and in a state of neglect, with some displaying injuries.

All the dogs were Bully breeds such as American Pit Bull Terriers and Staffordshire Bull Terriers, as well as similar breeds that are not officially recognised.

Officers from the Animal Welfare Directorate were alerted to the dogs' plight by someone who reported seeing one of them in a state of neglect.

When they investigated the report, they discovered that the neglected dog was one of more than two dozen. 

One person under investigation

In an operation lasting a few hours, Animal Welfare officers took the dogs into custody and treated some for injuries.

Times of Malta understands that one person is being investigated in relation to the incident and that further enforcement measures are expected.

Some of the dogs required medical treatment.Some of the dogs required medical treatment.

Sources said the dogs had been well-tempered and displayed no aggression when handled by Animal Welfare officers who attended the scene.

Commissioner: 'Time to regulate breeding'

When contacted, Animal Welfare Commissioner Alison Bezzina said the case reflected a lack of regulation concerning dog breeding, a situation she warned was reaching crisis point.

“I’ve been begging the Ministry [for Animal Rights] to regulate all dog breeding since 2021,” she said. “At the moment, the law is so loose and vague that anyone can start breeding.”

Commenting on the incident, parliamentary secretary for animal welfare Alicia Bugeja Said stressed it was “not an isolated case,” and echoed Bezzina’s point about there being significant problems finding homes for rescued Bully breeds. 

“The more reports we receive of animals that are in a bad state or running on the streets, the more the problem grows to find a suitable allocation for them – in particular with this breed of pitbull, which unfortunately few adopt," she said.  

Bugeja Said had acknowledged back in 2022 that unregulated breeding was a problem that must be tackled. Despite that, regulation remains lacking. 

Bezzina said she had also recommended the government issue a temporary ban on Bully breeding, stressing that because of their size and energetic nature, it was often difficult to find foster homes for those that had been abandoned.

The 27 dogs included two litters and their mothers.The 27 dogs included two litters and their mothers.

She said that with all private rescue centres now refusing to take in mixed Bully breeds, only one government centre was left to accommodate them.

“The situation now is so bad that if we have to rescue another, we will struggle to take them... we need to close the tap,” she said, stressing the importance of preventing further breeding.

As Commissioner, Bezzina does not have executive powers. Her responsibilities include promoting compliance with animal welfare laws, advocating for animal welfare, promoting educational campaigns and making recommendations.

Last year, she said she felt “powerless” in her role, blaming a lack of resources and inadequate enforcement for “more animal suffering and hardships”.

Questions were sent to the Animal Rights Ministry.

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