Animal Welfare Commissioner Alison Bezzina wrote about the possibility of introducing animal kill shelters to Malta. Kill shelters do not have room for all the pets they accept.
These shelters are often forced to euthanise animals based on their duration of stay in order to continue accepting all animals.
On 8 August, in an opinion piece on the Times of Malta, Animal Welfare Commissioner Alison Bezzina wrote about the possibility of introducing animal kill shelters to Malta. This would need to happen if shelters continue to fill up, leaving little room for new animal additions, and if cat colonies grow beyond the control of small-time local feeders.
First of all, a kill shelter, or open admission shelter, refers to an animal shelter that accepts all animals. There are no restrictions, no age limitations, no health standards or behavioral requirements. All animals are accepted and there are no appointments necessary before surrendering a dog or cat. These can be found all over the world, including the US and the UK.
While this sounds good in practice, the reality is that kill shelters do not have room for all the pets they accept. These shelters are often forced to euthanise animals based on their duration of stay in order to continue accepting all animals. So, just because a dog or cat is in good health with a good temperament, does not mean it will not be euthanised.
And because there are no health standards, the shelter is often forced to euthanise pets in order to protect the health and safety of the general animal population. Some diseases, for example, are very treatable for a pet in a home environment. However, in a shelter, certain diseases can rapidly spread to other animals and even to the volunteers.
However, “no-kill” policies do not necessarily prevent animals from dying, since, without a proper framework, animals are simply left to die elsewhere, often miserably. They’re dumped on the streets, where they get injured or killed in traffic, starve, or succumb to the elements, as well as reproducing, thereby creating even more homeless animals. Others end up spending their lives tied to a chain or confined to a lonely kennel in an isolated backyard. Some are violently killed or fatally neglected.
The question, therefore, is, ‘What can we do to ensure that healthy animals are safeguarded without having to introduce such an extreme measure as kill shelters?’ The answer is simple. The only real, sustainable and humane way for Malta to shield these animals is by cutting off the supply of homeless animals.
Measures can include a screening programme of prospective adopters to avoid adoptions or transfers into unsuitable homes, as well as spaying or neutering all animals before their release.
A measure which Alison Bezzina touched upon, which although controversial could result as a game changer, is the introduction of taxation on the selling and buying of animals. Ms Bezzina argued that the trading of animals should be treated as a luxury good and as such, taxed heavily.
As all the sanctuaries are almost at capacity, and even cat feeders are struggling to cope with ever-growing colonies of cats due to lack of space, it is high time that different lobby groups such as animal welfare associations, animal breeders, and pet shop owners, together with the relevant authorities, come together and form a plan which addresses the real reasons why animals end up homeless in the first place, without introducing inhumane kill shelters.