TRAINING & DEVELOPMENT FOR THE GOVERNMENT OF MALTA ANIMAL WELFARE DIRECTORATEMon, 14 Dec 2015
At the end of November 2015 I received a telephone call literally out of the blue from Brian Faulkner, International Consultant on Stray Dogs and Rabies Control asking me if I would like to accompany him to Malta to help carry out training of Maltese Animal Welfare Officers AWO's let me think about that for one second..YES!
The week long training course was funded by the European Union Social Fund and organised by Mr Robert Cutajar, Principal of the Animal Welfare Directorate. As well as AWO's there were Malta Police Officers from the specialist Animal Legislation Enforcement A.L.E unit that deals with wildlife crime, hunting crimes and licensing
The course consisted of 40 students a day and as well as presentations from Brian and myself, there were also presentations from Veterinary Surgeons, Exotic Animal Handlers, Government Officials and Malta's very own Dog Whisperer, Dr Simon Spiteri.
The aim of the course was to provide professional development and share best practice with the delegates to enable them to apply what they learnt on the course in their roles.
The course was run in Maltese and English as it is a requirement of employment that all officers of the Government and the Police Service must be able to communicate in both languages.
The structure of the Animal Welfare Directorate is impressive with the team being led by Director Mr Lawrence Buhagiar, with Coordinator Mr Dennis Sciberras assisting with deployment of the AWO teams, Kennels and Cattery Animal Carers and the equally important administration staff.
There are currently 16 AWO's working to a 12 hour shift pattern that sees two teams of two officers per animal ambulance on duty at any one time. With a population of around 432,282 residents, the ratio of AWO to residents is extremely impressive at around 1 AWO: 27,027 residents.
A shift consists of two officers manning one animal ambulance and dealing with calls relating to stray and injured dogs and cats as well as other species of animals. The second team deal with 'inspections' animal welfare complaints which can also vary in complexity and species. The team deal with approximately 5,000 inspections a year and when necessary bring an offender before the Magistrates Court if advice is ignored.
Both the animal ambulances carry a full range of personal protective equipment to handle animals safely and importantly keep the AWO's safe as well. The vehicles are air conditioned and have blue flashing lights and sirens to help them get injured animals to the veterinary centre.
The Animal Welfare Directorate also have their own kennels and cattery at their headquarters in Marsa where animals are cared for by the animal carer team.
The training course which was held at the impressive Limestone Heritage, Park and Gardens in Siggeiwi covered a plethora of topics such as animal handling, use of equipment, animal first aid, animal capture techniques, dealing with people and ethical behaviour, exotic animal handling, dog behaviour and the transportation of animals.
Malta's Commissioner for Animal Welfare, Mr Emanuel Buhagiar attended a number of the lectures when his busy work schedule allowed.
On Saturday 5th December 2015, Malta held its first National Animal Welfare Conference which was opened by Mr Rodrick Galdes, Parliamentary Private Secretary for Agriculture, Fisheries and Animal Rights. Mr Galdes reiterated the important role that continuation training and professional development plays for officers who work in the field of animal protection.
The Animal Welfare Directorate started the conference off with a short film on its role and work as well as discussing the new text book about animal welfare that is being disseminated around schools on Malta and Gozo. Conference heard from Mr Buhagiar, the Commissioner for Animal Welfare, Director Mr Lawrence Buhagiar, Coordinator Mr Dennis Sciberras, Mr Brian Faulkner, representatives of the Malta Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and an animal welfare NGO who strive to rehome abandoned animals. I also had the opportunity to contribute to the discussion.
A point of note is that whilst the Government of Malta Animal Welfare Directorate recognise that there is further work to do, the current 24/7 service provision and the professional approach of the whole team makes Malta a world leader in animal welfare provision.
A combination of continuous personal development and the implementation of best practice will raise and keep Malta at the top of the table in animal welfare and care.
I am grateful for the opportunity to have contributed to the personal development of animal welfare colleagues in Malta and Gozo.
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