Call to regulate pet sitters in Malta reignited after death of Golden Retriever Louie

The death of a ‘beloved’ golden Labrador while in the care of an unlicensed pet sitter has rekindled calls for regulation of the industry – with pet sitters needing a license before being able to take charge of a client’s animals.

“Louie, a healthy, balanced and beloved golden retriever aged one year and four months, suffered a painful and lonely death while with a pet sitter (who is external to the service provider custody of Louie), due to a puncture of his organs,” the MSPCA said, sharing footage of the dog.

He was training to be a therapy dog, but died after being “left unattended with working materials, including pieces of wood and metal (Fildiferru) that he ingested”.

“Louie was a cherished member of the family.

This is just the latest case of an animal dying while in the care of a pet sitter. Although pet sitting is a useful service for pet owners, there are only two registered pet boarding houses on the island. These boarding schools are Tat-Targa kennels and Niveksu kennels.

On the other hand, Malta has dozens of pet sitters offering pet sitting services, whether for a few hours or a few days, and none of them are regulated or licensed.

The MSPCA denounced the lack of “proper supervision or licensing” leading to deaths.

“No pet should suffer this kind of death and no owner should come back knowing they were off to have fun while their pet died,” he said.

Noting that owners must rely on word of mouth and outside advice when deciding where to leave their pet, the MSPCA said it was “unacceptable that these services could be offered by anyone looking to earn extra money with limited or no knowledge”.

The MSPCA has urged any new legislation to also consider providing “safe and immediate access to autopsy and appropriate freezing for all sizes of dogs in the event of death”, among other recommendations.

“The authorization or licenses must, among other things, stipulate the number of animals that the place can offer. A ratio balancing the number of dogs per carer should also be introduced in the case of pet sitting services to ensure that each animal receives the attention it needs. An environmental assessment should also be carried out regularly,” he noted.

“And licenses can be revoked at any time, after a reasonable assessment of violations of the law and/or when animal welfare is set aside for profit by said services,” he concluded.

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