With her allegations being her own personal experience and that of another person, the group Rubs Puppy Love, could not risk taking responsibility for the claims and removed the post. Many took umbrage against this decision, but with Rubs Puppy Love being a voluntary organization, the law is against it in such matters.
Among other things the allegation made by Ms. Arpa claimed that the area in which dogs are kept in Għammieri – Animal Welfare, is ‘a hell hole, so much so that prospective adopters… left from there in tears.”
The same allegation claimed that the director (of AW) got himself a state of the art office with beautiful furniture whilst leaving the situation of the dogs under the AW’s care in a dire situation.
It is good practice and fair game to give someone the right to reply when such allegations are made against them. In addition when I had met Mr. Montebello the previous year he gave me his business card and told me to contact him directly whenever I needed. So on the 1st of January – that’s 11 days ago – I sent him a copy of Arpa’s allegation and asked for his reaction.
Unfortunately good practice was not rewarded in this case, and his promise fell flat on its face. Here’s what has happened since then:
5 days after sending the allegation to Mr. Montebello for his reply I still had not received an answer or even an acknowledgement. So, on the 5th January, I sent him a reminder.
An hour later I received a reply saying the following:
Your request has to be made through communication office.
Sent from my Samsung Galaxy smartphone.”
Not knowing which communication office he was referring to, I immediately asked for a clarification, but none was forthcoming as Mr. Montebello ignored my email in which I asked for a name or an email address of the person or office in question.
That same day I forwarded the email with Arpa’s allegation to every Animal Welfare related email that I could find online. I also asked people who are heavily involved in animal welfare in Malta and Gozo if they knew about this Communication Office that Mr. Montebello was referring to. Lo and behold, none of them had.
I then asked Mr. Konrad Ellul who is an administrator with The Animal Welfare and Promotion Services Directorate Veterinary and Phytosanitary Regulation Division and who is very prominent in the media. His reply was this :
“Sorry. So I think someone from the Ministry. But don’t know any names there.”
On the 7th of January I emailed Mr. Pietro Caschetto who is listed as the Chief Information Officer under the administration of Parliamentary secretary for agriculture, fisheries and animal rights Mr Clint Camilleri.
Mr. Caschetto soon replied saying:
Dear Ms Bezzina,
I am not the person responsible. Nevertheless, I have forwarded your email to the proper officer who is going to take care of the below.
Then before I could ask Mr. Caschetto whom he had forwarded my email to, Mr. Noel Montebello (the Director of AW) suddenly resurrected and sent me an email saying :
Your email has been forwarded to Mr Sean Schembri in copy.
Turns out that Mr. Sean Schembri is the Government Spokesperson at Ministry for Environment, Sustainable Development, Climate Change and that nowhere on the Government’s portals is his office referred to as Communication Office!
I then sent an email to Mr. Sean Schembri again asking for a reaction to Arpa’s allegation but till today, 11 days after my first email to Mr. Montebello, I am still waiting for Mr. Schembri to even acknowledge my email.
In addition, late last night a Josianne Vesic claimed that Animal Welfare is now closed to the public.
In order to verify this claim, at 8:30am this morning, I called Animal Welfare and asked to go see the dogs pretending to want to adopt a big one today. The person who answered the phone, immediately said that they are currently closed for adoptions, and that he didn’t know the reason why. If it were up to him, our conversation would have stopped there. He sounded very eager to hang up on me.
But I insisted and questioned what was going on. At this point he got hot under the collar and offered to give me the numbers of other sanctuaries. When I insisted that I wanted a dog from AW, he (huffing and puffing) put me through to Konrad Ellul.
Though with a much better attitude than his colleague, Mr. Ellul told me once again that AW is currently closed for adoptions. When I kept arguing and insisting, he agreed to let me in if I made an appointment tomorrow (not today he insisted). He also said that he would ‘bring a dog out’ for me to see. So, clearly, for whatever reason, I was not going to be let inside the enclosure. So yes, there’s something going on in there, and it’s being kept well under wraps.
Here are some doors you might want to knock on to help us get answers :
Mr. Sean Schembri Government Spokesperson at Ministry for Environment, Sustainable Development, Climate Change Mobile : +35679880618 | Email:[email protected]
Mr. Konrad Ellul Administrator with The Animal Welfare and Promotion Services Directorate Veterinary and Phytosanitary Regulation Division Tel : 22924132 | Email : [email protected]
Minister Hon. Jose Herrera – [email protected]
Parliamentary Secretary Hon. Clint Camilleri – [email protected]
Prime Minister Joseph Muscat – [email protected]
Animal Welfare Director Mr. Noel Montebello – [email protected]
UPDATE – AT 2.37PM – A FEW HOURS AFTER THIS BLOG WAS FIRST UPLOADED, GOV SPOKESPERSON SEAN SCHEMBRI REPLIED…BUT NOT REALLY. EMAIL AS PER BELOW :
Dear Ms. Bezzina,
I will be sending my replies in due course. As It was explained to Ms. Arpa in person just a few days ago we are looking at the concerns raised and will be duly giving our feedback.
UPDATE 16th January
On the 16th January I had what felt like a very positive meeting with the new Commissioner for Better Treatment of Animals – retired Magistrate Dennis Montebello. The Commissioner read my blog, and listened to all the allegations. He has promised to look into the matter with urgency and have things improved by the end of the month. One can only hope. I augur that Magistrate Montebello will have more collaboration from those concerned than all those before him.
In the meantime if anyone else out there has first hand experiences of sub-standard conditions at AW please let me know.
UPDATE – on the 17th January – Mr. Sean Schembri – The Government’s spokesperson – finally replied. See reply here