With everyone spending more time at home due to Covid-19, animal shelters around the island saw a slight increase in pet adoptions as people sought companionship.
However, many choose to house a puppy or small breed of dog rather than adopting larger, more mature – and therefore calmer and less demanding dog breeds.
The Association for Abandoned Animals (AAA) and Noah’s Ark Dog Sanctuary have shared their plight with The independent of Malta that their shelters are packed, especially with medium sized Maltese hunting dogs – they lament are actually the kind of dogs who make better pets because of their calm and obedient natures.
As the homeless pet population continues to be an insurmountable problem in Malta, these associations have once again called for strict sterilization protocols to be adopted by the government for all dog breeders; protocols that are currently being ignored, as evidenced by the announcement of the possibility of forced introduction of animal-killing shelters, as stated by Animal Welfare Commissioner Alison Bezzina.
In its attempt to reduce the number of homeless pets, the government launched the “Adopt a Pet Allowance Scheme” at the end of 2019. – distribute 150 € to those who adopted a pet and kept it for at least 6 months.
However, the shrines noted, the program did not have any desired effect or address the underlying issues.
A closer look: Association for abandoned animals (AAA)
Despite moving to a newly renovated sanctuary in Birzebbuga in 2018 with better facilities, the AAA currently does not have enough space, volunteers or donations to accommodate more dogs, sanctuary manager Rosalind Agius said. The independent of Malta.
This sanctuary is located on Triq Ħal-Far, is open to the public 7 days a week from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. and can accommodate 80 dogs at a time.
“The older and bigger they are, the less adoptable these poor dogs are – even though they are generally the nicest and least demanding dogs,” Agius said.
They calculate that their shelter houses between 35 and 40 dogs per month who all leave their sanctuary sterilized, microchipped and vaccinated. Thanks to their own sterilization campaign program, they sterilize around 50 additional dogs per month.
“We can proudly say that not all dogs that have entered AAA are return dogs of the ones we have housed,” said Agius.
“Adopt a pet allowance scheme”
The AAA saw a slight increase in the number of people wishing to adopt once the government’s ‘Adopt a Pet Allowance Scheme’ was implemented, but said it was very wary of people seeking adoption in the country. part of this program, because €150 won’t go too far to care for their pet for life.
Agius explained that before housing dogs, the AAA makes a “huge effort” to screen potential pet parents because they believe the main reason dogs are abandoned is because adoptees are not. would not even have thought of a new family member’s job. , from training where the dog does his daily needs, to visits to the vet and so on, ”Agius said.
Agius argues that instead of this program, the government should invest in sterilization campaigns, just as their association is doing out of its own pocket.
Impacts of Covid-19
Although they face fewer volunteers and donations due to the pandemic, they have persisted in their efforts to prevent their hosted rescue dogs “from being left at their doorstep again,” Agius said.
“Making sure we escort the dogs to responsible people was actually a bigger challenge,” said Agius.
She explained how the sanctuary has done its best to ensure that it does not harbor a “Covid-19 puppy” who would be overlooked once their parents returned to their usual way of life.
A closer look: the Noah’s Ark dog sanctuary
This canine sanctuary, created in 2004 is located at Triq Wied Musa, Mellieha – and is open 7 days a week from 8:30 am to 11:30 am
Currently at full capacity, they accommodate between 60 and 100 dogs at any one time. They house around 4 to 8 dogs per month.
86 dogs were adopted in 2020, with the adoption rate so far this year being quite low, said sanctuary administrator Mark Vella Bardon. The independent of Malta.
Much of the demand, said Vella Bardon, is for the smaller dog breeds – which they very rarely have at the sanctuary.
In 2009, they launched the national 24-hour emergency ambulance service for stray dogs and cats, funded in part by the Ministry of Resources and Rural Affairs, and adopted by the government the following year.
Vella Bardon notes that despite their rigorous control, some dogs are still brought back to their shelter. Noah’s Ark is very reluctant to accept abandoned family dogs and therefore does everything possible to help repatriate the dogs to another family; still hoping it would be a forever home this time around, Vella Bardon said.
“More often than not, people who return or deliver dogs give us the impression that the reason given [for their surrendering of the dog] is a weak excuse, ”said Vella Bardon.
“Adopt a pet allowance scheme”
Vella Bardon said that although the program was launched in 2019, government vouchers for this program only started issuing recently and that their opinion, like that of many other animal organizations, was that it was of a “waste program” which did not yield any positive results.
He noted that the only redemptive factor was when the government backed down due to NGO outcry and gave adoptees the option of transferring the € 150 (or part of it) to a wildlife sanctuary.
Impacts of Covid-19
Vella Bardon said that over the past year both fostering requests as well as adoptions have increased, but they have nonetheless remained very cautious about the destination of their rescued dogs.
They did not accept offers of dog hosting they received for the lockdown period as it would have done more harm than good due to the amplified separation anxiety that resulted.
Struggling With Your Pet’s Separation Anxiety After Covid-19 Work From Home? MSPCA develop a Awareness program to help
As pets have become accustomed to long periods of human interaction during the work-from-home lifestyle of Covid-19, the MSPCA Animal Rescue Service is developing an awareness program designed to help people with minimize their pet’s anxiety problems.
This program is specially designed to accommodate pets who were adopted during the pandemic and therefore did not experience home life before Covid.
This initiative is adopted in order to alleviate the negative reaction that may cause individuals to think about abandoning their pet or returning it to the shelter where it was previously located due to a new separation anxiety based on their pet. , said a spokesperson for the MSPCA. The independent of Malta.