The government will be issuing a legal notice making it compulsory for dogs such as pit-bulls to be micro-chipped, Rural Affairs Minister George Pullicino said today.

Mario Spiteri, director of animal welfare, later explained that the government was not saying it was micro-chipping dangerous dogs, because dogs were not dangerous. This measure, he said, was a step towards curbing dog fighting encouraged by the dog owners.

He said the authorities would use scanners for random checks of pit bulls.

Mr Pullicino said when speaking at a press conference, that since the animal ambulance service was introduced in January, there were some 500 cats and dogs which had been rescued. These included strays and animals which were being harmed.

Inspectors made over 1,000 inspections of farms and residences following suspected abuse. There were currently 25 pending court cases over alleged animal cruelty.

Mr Pullicino thanked the people for reporting animal cruelty and for taking in animals that were rescued - some 30 per cent were adopted and the others were sent to animal sanctuaries or Ghammieri government farm.

The minister, however, deplored some 50 prank calls made to the department since January.

The minister said that in order to encourage more animal adoptions, the ministry would set up a service on its website with pictures of the animals available for adoption.

In other comments, Mr Pullicino said that over the past two years 2,000 cats and dogs were neutered.

He said the Ta' Qali animal after-care centre was expected to open in September.

The minister also praised the reaching-out programme where animals are taken to schools to promote animal appreciation, and said the programme would be extended to summer schools.

On Gozo, he said that a site had been identified for use by the Gozo SPCA and the development permit process was now before Mepa.

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