The police are investigating the possible return of an underground dog fighting ring.

The spectre of illegal dog fighting was raised in Parliament on Tuesday by Opposition MP Mario Galea who said he had been shocked to learn the heinous form of animal cruelty had made an unwelcome comeback in recent months.

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Shortly after making his statement, he passed on information to Animal Rights Parliamentary Secretary Clint Camilleri who told Times of Malta he had, in turn, handed it over to the police for further investigation.

Animal welfare legislation specifically lays down that “animal fights shall not be organised and nor shall animals be entered for animal fights”.

Sources close to the police said yesterday the area believed to serve as illegal dog fighting arena was likely to be the same or close to the one that had been raided a few years ago.

The illegal fights are believed to happen in the early hours of Sunday morning

The illegal fights are believed to happen in the early hours of Sunday morning, around sunrise, and the sources said the name of the game was catching the culprits in the act. This, however, would not be so straightforward because those involved were diligent and employed methods that made it difficult to catch them by surprise.

The sources recalled that, a few years ago, the police had been tipped off about the criminal activity but were initially unsuccessful in catching the group red-handed. They had then conducted raids on a number residences of suspects and discovered video recordings of the dog fights.

Illegal dog fights could generate quite a substantial amount of cash in betting and had the potential of attracting dozens of people, the sources noted.

Acting on a tip-off, the police had raided a dog fight shortly after it had started in 2002. About 200 people in around 70 cars were watching the fight and when they spotted the police, they made a quick getaway together with the dog owners who left behind some pails of water and dog collars. Water is usually used to separate the dogs during a fight.

The fact that no arrests were made on the spot had annoyed animal organisations.

Sources close to the Veterinary Department said the owners of dogs used for fighting would likely breed the animals themselves or else import them illegally from Sicily.

“The dogs used will have their tails and ears clipped and they would not be chipped. Any injuries they sustain will be treated by some unscrupulous vets who would not report anything to the authorities, unless, of course, the animals are treated by the owners themselves,” they said.

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