Animal Commissioner Alison Bezzina is calling for more pet-friendly beaches in Malta and Gozo so dogs can enjoy swimming "with the rest of the family".
There are nine beaches on the islands - seven in Malta and two in Gozo - where dogs are allowed.
They can also swim anywhere that is not a designated bathing area, unless a specific Local Council By-Law prohibits it.
But Bezzina says that while health must be the priority, with dogs banned from most beaches due to the bacteria from their waste, the country "undoubtedly...needs more dog-friendly beaches".
She said discussions are ongoing with different authorities to try to increase the number.
"If we truly expect people living in the Maltese Islands to treat their dogs as family members, it cannot remain so difficult to take dogs swimming with the rest of the family," she said.
Breaking the dog beach ban could land owners a hefty fine of between €232 and €4,658 and/or not less than six months imprisonment. On second conviction the fine goes up to a minimum of €465 and a maximum of €11,646 and/or not less than two years imprisonment.
Her study, published on Wednesday, said there was a "severe lack" of dog-friendly beaches, as she listed each one, highlighting the accessibility and size of the bay and whether it is ideal for small, big or all-sized dogs.
The beaches are:
Rinella Bay, Kalkara
Dogs must stay on the rocky part of this beach, which is listed as the smallest dog-friendly beach on the island.
Xatt is-Sajjieda, Marsaxlokk
The study warns that "large stones strewn all over the beach" make it "practically impossible" for owners to join their dogs in the sea. It's not ideal for small dogs.
Tigne Point, Sliema
This beach, under the Tigne point bridge, is ideal for both small and big dogs and there are steps to hep humans in and out of the water too, the study says.
Baħar Ic-Caħaq (Behind Splash and Fun)
One of the biggest dog-friendly beaches in Malta. The part that is dog-friendly is the rocky section behind the water park.
Imġiebaħ Bay, Selmun
The only dog-friendly sandy beach in Malta and Gozo is very difficult to reach, the study warns. The short trek down a cliff is not accessible for dogs or humans with mobility problems.
Daħlet Ix-Xmajjar, Armier
This remote beach is easy to navigate for dogs of all sizes but people with mobility problems might find it challenging.
Zonqor Point, Marsascala
Possibly the largest dog-friendly beach on the island, this beach has mostly smooth rocks and acccess to the water is easy for both humans and dogs.
Horizon Bay, limits of Xwejni area
While this small beach in Gozo is often covered with seaweed, "dogs do love it", the study says. It warns that it is very close do a car park.
Trejqet Mgarr Ix-Xini, Għajnsielem
Accessing the water at this Gozo beach can be "perilous" and the open seas can be dangerous here, the study warns.
The decision to declare a dog-friendly beach lies within the Environmental Health Directorate and Superintendence of Public Health upon suggestions made by the Animal Welfare Directorate.
Bezzina said that this is due to the water quality and bathing water profiles at beaches, and follows WHO guidelines which show that bacteria from dog waste affects bathing water quality and could put people's health at risk.
No official water quality testing is done at the nine dog-friendly beaches, her report said, but Health Regulation Department keeps an eye on the water- quality of these beaches.
In summer dogs are banned from Blue Flag beaches, which are considered the best high-quality beaches according to the International Blue Flag eco-label for Sustainable Development.
Dogs are not allowed on any sandy beach, except for Imġiebaħ Bay.
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