Not being one to report something without verifying both sides of the story, I immediately wrote an email to the Director of Animal Welfare Noel Montebello, copying his assistant Lucienne Cassar, Commissioner for Animal Welfare Mag Denis Montebello, Parliamentary Secretary Hon Clint Camilleri and the Gov Spoke’s Person Sean Schembri for a clarification. My email read as follows :
Dear Mr. Noel Montebello
As you are surely aware, yesterday a Facebook post about cats being trapped from Ghammieri’s grounds by AW officials, started doing the rounds (see screenshot below).
This morning, I followed it up directly with the source (who is not the person that posted the post) and this is what I found out.
- The feeders of this small colony have been taking care of this colony for years, neutering and feeding them out of their own pockets.
- Now they claim that cats are being trapped by AW never to be seen again.
- Their sources have told them that in preparation of next Sunday’s open day, Perm Sec Mr. Joe Caruana gave out an order to ‘get rid of the roaming cats’.
- Whilst it is beyond me why one would want to get rid of a few cats that are living on some 60 acres of land – a place that is meant to care for animals in the first place – it might very well be the case that this silly order was given out by Mr. Caruana (as it had been before other open days), however it is still AW’s job to do this responsibly.
- It is totally unacceptable to move cats around from one place to another when they would have become used to their surroundings, unless in a confined space until they are re-homed.
- The feeders are 100% sure that the cats trapped this week were not taken to AW’s rehoming shelter and they do not know their whereabouts.
Mr. Schembri, please consider this email as your opportunity to give your side of the story.
Within a few minutes I got an email back from the Government’s Spokesperson Sean Schembri.
It read as follows :
Thank you for your communication. We would like to take this opportunity to clarify the misconceptions being circulated and categorically state that there is absolutely no relation between the stray cats being relocated for their wellbeing from the Għammieri Experimental Farm and the Open Day taking place next Sunday.
Over the past weeks a group of stray fox terriers were noticed at the Għammieri Experimental Farm chasing stray cats, hence why it was deemed appropriate to trap the cats and relocate them to a more appropriate area until the fox terriers are located.
In fact, during the past days a cat had to be taken to APH and another one placed in the cats compound at Għammieri. The general direction has always been to exercise proper care and diligence in the treatment of all animals.
Of course, I thought this was a lame excuse because common sense would dictate that to solve such an issue, it’s the Fox Terriers that needed to be trapped and not the cats. Having said that, I gave Animal Welfare the benefit of the doubt (or more rope to hang themselves with), and replied as follows :
Thank you for your reply Mr. Schembri.
Exercising proper care and diligence in the treatment of all animals would require that in this case, AW works hand in hand with the feeders who have been caring for these cats for years.So, if as you claim, the cats have been relocated to an appropriate area you should have no problem sharing the new location with us so can check on their well being. The feeders know exactly which cats are missing.In the absence of this information we will have no choice but to assume that the cats have been put down, that they can’t be traced or that the new area is not as appropriate as you claim it to be.I await your reply, as to where the cats have been relocated.
Thank youAlison Bezzina
An hour later I got yet another email, this time from Parliamentary Secretary Hon Clint Camilleri. The email read as follows :
Im informed no cat was put down.
You may wish to contact the director to show you the cats.
Perit Clint Camilleri
Parliamentary Secretary for Agriculture, Fisheries & Animal Rights
Clearly we had yet another ping pong game on our hands, so I replied again, as per below:
Dear Hon Camilleri,As you can imagine I am not in a position to identify the 15 cats in question as I am not their feeder.In addition my sources would like to remain anonymous as they fear repercussions from the Directorate.This means that approaching the director themselves is not an option.However, if AW knows exactly where these cats are, it would take a few minutes to take photo of each and send them through to me.My sources will then verify if they are the same cats or not.You have taken the trouble to issue a public statement to clear the Directorate’s name, but the well-being of the cats is the proof of the pudding.Thank you, I await the photosAlisonwww.iwillnotgoaway.com
Suddenly the whole directorate, the Gov’s spokesperson and even the Parliamentary Secretary, went silent. It’s now been 8 days and it seems that Animal Welfare cannot, for the life of them, locate a camera to take some photos. I have since sent two reminders but my experienced guess is that they will try to shove this case under the carpet by not replying. This has now become their modus operandi and unfortunately a culture of impunity is letting them get away with it whilst more animals suffer and face horrid fates.
In the meantime, we still don’t know what happened to the 15 cats that went missing over a weekend.
If you would like to lend a helping hand, please write to the Commissioner for Animal Welfare and ask him to investigate this case. His email is [email protected]
For the original screenshots of the email correspondence click here