What is Dogs Trust?
Dogs Trust is the UK’s largest dog welfare charity. Founded in 1891, it cares for 16,000 dogs a year across 17 rehoming centres across the UK. Dogs Trust never puts a healthy dog to sleep.
Why is a UK animal charity getting involved with the animal welfare situation abroad?
Dogs Trust feels that our vast wealth of experience can be used to help reduce the number of unwanted street dogs, improve standards of animal welfare and raise the status of companion animals across the world.
What international experience does Dogs Trust have?
- The charity developed and managed a successful 5 year TNR (trap neuter return) programme in Romania, reducing the number of stray dogs and improving the status of companion animals in the country.
- Dogs Trust runs subsidised neutering campaigns in Ireland, where there is a significant stray and ‘latch key’ dog problem.
- We also run training and support programmes for international rehoming centre staff, offering best practice guidance and knowledge training expertise.
- We organise the annual ICAWC (International Companion Animal Welfare Conference), gathering together staff from international animal organisations to promote positive animal welfare legislation, assist them in strengthening their projects and provide a platform for the interchange of ideas that impact on companion animals.
Why did Dogs Trust choose Malta over other countries?
Dogs Trust compiled a specific brief for its next international project and visited a total of three countries, including Malta.
The project location needed to be an island in Southern Europe (to prevent inward migration of animals), have a solvable ‘dog problem’, be a UK tourist destination and have support from the local Government. Evaluation documents were prepared and it was decided that further work should be directed towards Malta.
What is the dog problem in Malta?
Similar to other Mediterranean countries, there is little animal welfare education and therefore regard for animal welfare in Malta.
There are numerous stray dogs and cats on the streets and many litters of unwanted puppies and kittens are found abandoned in the street or sometimes even in garbage compactors.
Additionally, many owned dogs are ‘latch key’ dogs.
What are ‘latch key’ dogs?
‘Latch key’ dogs are pet dogs allowed to roam the streets unchecked from dawn until dusk, returning for food and shelter in the family home.
This irresponsible behaviour on the part of some owners allows the dogs to indiscriminately wander, be a hazard to the local community, and create unwanted litters of puppies.
Why act now?
International travel by the Maltese and inward pressure from tourists to the island has led to these issues becoming increasingly topical. The Maltese Government voted into power in 2008 also has a mandate to improve animal welfare on the island.
What about cats?
SPCA Malta will co-ordinate the neutering programme for cats and the children’s education workshops will cover lessons on general pet ownership as well as responsibilities specific to dogs.
Are you working with the other animal charities on the island?
Yes, we are working directly in association with SPCA Malta and will be liaising closely with Island Sanctuary, Noah’s Ark, AAA and the other animal welfare organisations.
What is your relationship with the Maltese Government?
The Maltese Government is very supportive and wishes to help develop an ongoing programme with SPCA Malta as part of their recent mandate to address animal welfare on the island.
We are working closely with the Maltese Government to create a best practice campaign to improve animal welfare standards.
Are you building a rehoming centre on the island?
At this stage we are just focusing on establishing a long term neutering and education programme.
Once best practices have been established and the neutering and education programmes are operating successfully, Dogs Trust will pass the continued management across to SPCA Malta. We envisage this to take place in 5 years time.
How many staff will you have in Malta?
In addition to the SPCA Malta staff working on the programme, Dogs Trust has hired a Campaigns Manager who will oversee the neutering programme and an Education Officer who will carry out free school workshops for children aged 7 – 9. All staff have been hired locally in Malta.
Do you need volunteers?
Dogs Trust and SPCA Malta have a range of activities that we would welcome volunteer support with, from walking dogs through to help with administration and publicising the work of the charities. Read more about volunteering.
What is Dogs Trust Malta’s office contact details?
PO Box 486
T: 21 421500
When will the campaign start?
The neutering programme will begin in August, and the education workshops will start in the next scholastic year (mid Sept 2009).
What happens in five years time when you leave the island? Won’t we be back at square one?
No, we have a wealth of experience in developing ongoing programmes with local charities so that they can take the reigns and continue work once we leave the island.
We are developing a best practice blueprint and then handing over the management to SPCA Malta, but of course will be available at all times to offer further advice as and when required. Following our neutering programme there should also be fewer unwanted and stray dogs to deal with.
But what about funding, who will pay for the programme when you go?
Sustainability is key to any programme that Dogs Trust initiates and it is perceived that Dogs Trust will invest time and money into a Fundraising strategy that will allow the SPCA Malta, with the help of the Government, to continue the work that Dogs Trust has initiated.
How are you going to encourage people to rehome rescue dogs?
Through ongoing publicity and advertising we aim to raise the profile and status of companion animals by emphasising the benefits of rescue dog ownership.
We are also helping SPCA Malta train their resident dogs to make them more appealing and adaptable to a home environment.
How much is Dogs Trust going to spend in total on the neutering and education programme?
Dogs Trust’s budget for our work in Malta includes €150,000 on neutering and €40,000 on education. We look forward to working with the Maltese Government – together, we can effect real change in Malta.
Are you fundraising on the island?
At the moment there are no plans for a fundraising drive in Malta.
How are you working with local vet practices?
We are looking forward to working with vet practices to offer local dog owners neutering, vaccinations, health checks and microchipping services at a significantly reduced cost. We will be piloting a scheme whereby
- those on means-tested benefits in Valletta will pay on average only €25 instead of the average neutering fee of €100
- dogs in selected targeted areas of Malta will be neutered for free
This will then be rolled out across the rest of the island in due course.
Isn’t neutering cruel? How will you persuade owners they should neuter their dogs?
Aside from the obvious result of reducing the number of unwanted litters of puppies and kittens, neutering has other benefits for the animal. It prevents certain cancers and reduces the likelihood of some negative behaviours (such as ‘spraying’ in cats and aggression in dogs). We will be investing a considerable amount of time, money and energy in a pro-neutering campaign on the island.
How much money will Dogs Trust spend on the neutering programme?
We have an annual budget of €150,000 in 2009.
How many dogs are you planning to neuter?
The combined Dogs Trust and government efforts will target all 81,000 dogs across the islands, including pet, ‘latch key’ and stray dogs. After five years Dogs Trust hopes to have neutered an estimated 35,000 pet and ‘latch key’ dogs.
How will the education programme work?
Dogs Trust has employed an education officer who will carry out free school workshops for children aged 7 – 9. Within the first year of the programme Irene Micallef aims to visit all 65 government, church and independent primary education establishments in Malta, reaching over 40,000 future pet owners.
Free bilingual resources will also be available for teachers. These are currently being developed based on existing UK templates.
What happens in a workshop?
The aim of the workshops is to leave the children with lots of positive thoughts and feelings on responsible pet care and the benefits to them, the animals and their community.
The programme is divided into three themes: A Pet’s Needs; Staying Safe Around Pets; and Responsible Pet Ownership. The education officer would never be alone with the children and the class teacher will always be present. There will also be the possibility of having a real dog accompany the education officer into the classroom for the children to meet and greet. Any pets visiting the classroom would of course be assessed for suitability. The workshops are available in English or Maltese.
How much do workshops cost?
They are entirely free. Free support resources are also available to teachers.
Why are you focusing the workshops on primary school children?
Primary school children are at an age where they are open and able to absorb new information, but are still young enough to form opinions and behaviours. Dogs Trust have found with their UK education programme that the messages of responsible pet ownership then reach older generations through the children talking about the workshops at home.
How do schools sign up to the workshops?
The education officer aims to visit all 68 primary establishments (government, church and independent) at least once in the first year, reaching over 40,000 primary school children.
Workshops are free, and there are free on- and offline educational resources available for further use. Teachers should contact Christina Pace on 77661000 or email Christina Pace to arrange a workshop or to find out more information.