As our NGO plans how we will distribute our budget for 2019 to maximize the effect of each Euro and make sure we are being fiscally responsible, I couldn’t help but take a look at Malta’s budget for 2019 and what this has to say about the government’s plans for the coming year on the animal welfare front. We are animal people and numbers make our brains hurt, yet we try to make sense of the published figures.
It appears there has been some restructuring in how the budget is broken down, as the Office of the Commissioner for Animal Rights appears to have no declared expenditure in previous years but will in 2019 receive an estimated budget of 50,000. So, although this analysis of the 2019 budget compares figures to the approved estimate of 2018 there is likely to be a difference in the scope of some items. Here’s a breakdown of what we found to be relevant.
Local Council Animal Fund: Local Councils will between them will have 120,000 to do projects related to animals. This appears to be a new budget item aimed at fulfilling electoral promise 38, one which we hope to see well put to use by all local councils to improve availability of dog poo bins, to make open spaces available for dog off leash exercise and stray cats neutering, like San Gwann has done in recent years.
Animal Aftercare Clinic: While we can’t be totally sure what this means we assume this is in part the budget for the veterinary care of animals collected by the Animal Welfare Ambulance. 2019’s budget estimates 150,000, that is 65,000 more than the previous year. This either means the animal welfare plans to do more stuff next year or that they foresee higher costs because of increasing demands. Only time will tell.
Animal Welfare Initiatives: 2019’s budget estimates a budget of 250,000, up by 43,000 from 2018. We are not sure what these initiatives actually are though in part this may be where you find the money for running operations at the government farm, but we hope this translates to an improvement of services and strategy and a much needed stray cat TNR campaign.
Animal Cemetery: 2019 estimates a budget of 30,000, down by 20,000 from 2018. That means the approved estimated expenditure in 2018 for an animal cemetery for 2018 was 50,000. In 2017, 0 was declared, but we know efforts to get this going date back at least to 2015 so maybe it was lumped with something else. Still the question remains, will we see the pet cemetery finally opening this year? This is another electoral promise (41).
Animal Welfare Fund: The new budget allocates 85,000 to the fund, 5,000 up from 2018. NGO’s will be glad to know there will be a wee bit more funds available to apply for. These funds are prioritized for improvements in animal shelter services, including refurbishment and upgrading of facilities, provision on new structures for animal accommodation, improvements to buildings, upgrading of equipment to approved standards in line with the relevant EU and local regulations, but also for costs related to medication, food and transport, programmes for the neutering of stray cats and dogs, and other relevant areas may be considered with the approval of the Parliamentary Secretary for Animal Rights upon the recommendation of the Animal Welfare Fund Committee.
Veterinary Services to NGOs: A new initiative announced in 2018 meant to fulfil electoral promise 37, which NGOs have already started applying for this month. The budget for this new initiative is 80,000 which all the licensed animal shelters can apply for and receive 40 euros for each animal registered to them on the national livestock database. The MSPCA has already sent its concerns to the Minister and Parliamentary Secretary about this process as microchip registrations have often taken a long time to be updated, but nonetheless this is a positive new assistance to NGOs who struggle to keep up with the bills.
Animal Disease Control Programs: This I presume is spent on programs to improve food safety, herd health, and vaccination programs, but may also include efforts to curb the spread of disease in wild animals and the control of importation of animals which can harbor disease. The budget for these programs for 2019 is 500,000, up by 150,000 from 2018.
Adopt a Pet Allowance: The measure promised in the LP’s 2017 manisfesto (proposal 35) seems likely to start this year, which promises 150 euros to anyone who adopts a pet from a shelter. The budget for 2019 is 100,000 so some 666 adopters could receive the allowance this year.
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University of Malta: An increase in the University’s budget of 2,000,000 compared to 2018 may be projected for several initiatives, last but not least and hopefully to fulfill electoral promise 44 to start offering veterinary courses through twinning with foreign universities.
Fines: The Ministry of Environment , Sustainable Development and Climate Change’s declared revenue from “Miscellaneous Fines” in 2017 was 10 euros (sigh), while it is estimated to be 2,000 euros for 2018. If we are to assume that this includes any fines for failing to microchip a dog, then it is no wonder we have noticed poor enforcement of the law. Since the estimated foreseen revenue for 2019 remains the same at 2,000 euros we can only despair about the implication. Meanwhile the structure of the budget does not give away if any fines where issued or how many with respect to the use of horse-drawn vehicles, not how much was collected in fees for the licencing of such services. Likewise figures for fines for illegal hunting and trapping seem to be obscured where we haven't found them.
That’s it for Malta, but Gozo has its own budget under the Ministry for Gozo.
Gozo’s budget for Agriculture, Fisheries and Animal Welfare in 2018 was 50,000. Astonishingly, the budget for 2019 is 230,000. That’s a whopping increase of 180,000. While some of this will obviously go to projects in farming and fisheries, we can’t help but see this as sign of good things to come on our sister island with regards to the animal welfare setup. So keep your eyes peeled and fingers crossed for news from Gozo.
The above amounts to an increase of some 593,000 euros for animal welfare and pet related initiatives, and while the budget does not mention any new plans for an extensive stray cat TNR campaign or for improved enforcement of the Animal Welfare Act, we hope it’s hidden in there somewhere. Electoral promise 39 states that intensifying cat and dog neutering is on the agenda, which we hope to happen soon as past campaigns organized by the government have been abysmal and there is way too much suffering going on to delay that project. Electoral promise 40 states the possibility of new cat microchipping laws but we'll have to see if it's in the cards for 2019. No mention of the promised (43) effort to establish a horse bathing beach. As much as it is nice to see electoral promise 42, to establish harsher penalties for animal cruelty offenses, this hasn’t happened yet and the harshest penalties available so far have as yet never been applied, so even when this happens, unless enforcement measures are improved, it will probably not translate into any real change. Some things can't be established in the budget. Finally, we look forward to whatever Gozo has planned for 2019 as the figures seem to indicate some movement on our sister island.
So that’s what we’ve found. Did you spot anything else? Let us know in the comments below what you think or if we missed anything.