The owner of two dogs that have been roaming Gozo’s streets at night and attacking other animals will be charged in the coming weeks, the animal welfare commissioner told Times of Malta.
The dogs have also damaged a car bumper while hunting cats hiding under vehicles, animal activists claim.
Although the nature of the charges is unclear, it is illegal to have a dog unleashed in public spaces, even if the owner is present, Alison Bezzina, the commissioner, explained.
Questions regarding the charges have been sent to the police.
Speaking to Times of Malta, a Gozo SPCA spokesperson said they had heard reports of dead cats and chickens over the past several weeks. While stray cats have fallen prey to the dogs, believed to be two Rottweilers, farmers have found dead chickens and rabbits.
In these cases, the dog owner compensates the farmer for livestock damage, leading to no police report being filed, the spokesperson said.
Asked about the dogs and why they have been left without a leash on so many occasions with no legal repercussions, the spokesperson said the dogs tend to leave their owner’s property at night.
There is nowhere, not even in the countryside, where you can legally take your dog off a leash
“It’s not a matter of the dogs being left alone but they have been escaping at night and the owner isn’t stopping them,” the spokesperson said.
Estimating that between 20 and 30 cats have been killed, the spokesperson clarified that they have not heard stories of humans being attacked by the Rottweilers.
“You often hear about dogs chasing stray cats but it’s not common to hear about dogs killing the cats,” the spokesperson added, expressing concern and also hoping the situation is sorted out soon before more animals are killed.
While the owner has been reported to both the police and animal welfare, Bezzina noted that animal welfare focuses on cases of cruelty between owner and pet. When the issue is between animals, it becomes the police’s problem, she said.
“We have been assured the police will be taking action against them,” she said, adding that the owner is breaking the law by leaving them off the leash.
“There is nowhere, not even in the countryside, where you can legally take your dog off a leash,” she said, clarifying that the only exceptions are dog parks or if the dog is being used to help hunt during open season.
The owner could also be breaking the law by not putting a muzzle on the dogs, she said. If the owner of a dog knows of their pet’s violent behaviour, they must muzzle it.