Animal rights activists took to Valletta to protest against parliamentary secretary Alicia Bugeja Said on Wednesday evening, saying she is unfit to represent the best interests of animals. 

Standing outside parliament with their pets in tow, the activists held signs and placards saying “animals deserve better”, “we need a compassionate minister” and “stop puppy mills”. 

Protest organisers Joanna Mallia and Maxine Borg said that after stating publicly that she was in favour of hunting as well as keeping wild animals in cages, Bugeja Said cannot adequately represent the rights of animals when she was in agreement with such “cruelty”. 

“All the necessary work to publish zoo regulation has been done but the conservation programmes Bugeja promised to adequately protect animals in such zoos haven't happened,” they said.

“We need new laws to regulate this immediately.” 

The protestors also criticised minister Anton Refalo for “dragging his feet for 10 years” on introducing adequate policies for animal welfare. 

Ten proposals

During the protests, the activists issued 10 proposals they want to see implemented for the betterment of animal welfare, namely that; animal welfare officers must be given more training and resources; an adequate emergency service for animals; larger premises to house stray and confiscated animals; more transparent communication between the animal welfare department and the public; more effective enforcement of the law; more awareness from both the minister and the parliamentary secretary on the pressing issues faced by activists; a continuous neutering campaign for both cats and dogs; more aid for cat feeders; a fund for NGOs and animal sanctuaries; more powers given to the Animal Welfare Commissioner and; harsher fines for animal abusers.

Progress on updated legislation to regulate zoos in Malta has been stalled for two years, having gone through both public consultation and an environmental impact assessment, the final version remains unavailable to the public. 

After promising in January that the new rules would be published “shortly”, Refalo was unable to give a timeline on when these might be expected when questioned by Times of Malta in May. 

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