Dogs have entrenched themselves as cherished members of households, with over 85,000 Maltese citizens as registered dog owners and over 96,000 dogs living in our islands[1].

Against this backdrop, the legal framework governing dogs in Malta assumes delineating rights, responsibilities, and obligations for both owners and the general society.

The Animal Welfare Act[2] ensures the protection and well-being of animals and establishes a Council for Animal Welfare. This Act includes regulations concerning the care, surgical treatment, and euthanasia of animals. Specific additional regulations concerning the care of dogs will be governed by a more specialized set of laws (lex specialis).

The Dogs Act[3] establishes that the keeping of dogs shall be done in cognisance of the Veterinary Regulation Directorate. The licensing of dogs shall be conducted through the insertion of a microchip, whereby the veterinarian notifies the Director Veterinary Regulation Directorate with the details of the owners and the details pertaining to the dog.

Each dog must be licensed, regardless of whether its owner already has a license for another dog. The Police Commissioner may restrict the licensing of multiple dogs in residential areas. Additionally, dogs are required to wear a tag or badge in public places, displaying the contact information of the owner or keeper.

The Police Commissioner is granted the authority to seize and detain any dog that attacks a person. Should the owner or keeper of a dog, which presents a danger to people, fail to maintain control over the animal, they will be subject to a fine, and the dog may be confiscated or reassigned to a new owner or keeper as deemed appropriate.

In the case of ‘Police vs. Formosa and Formosa[4] the Court stated as follows:

“Għalhekk huwa ċar li l-leġislatur ried jorbot idejn il-ġudikant li jekk ikun hemm kelb li jigdem xi persuna, dan għandu jitqies bħala perikoluż (kelma tassattiva fuq il-Qorti) u l-Qorti għandha tordna d-distruzzjoni tal-kelb. Din hija materja tassattiva u ma tħallix diskrezzjoni f’idejn il-Qrati”.

The presence of dogs in public is regulated and is a matter of importance due to the involvement of public safety. The importance of a dog being leashed when being taken out is emphasised by virtue of the provision providing that it shall be unlawful for a dog to roam freely on public roads.

Moreover, it is explicitly provided that when a dog is taken out, it shall be restrained by virtue of an adequate collar attached to a suitable leash which is to be held by the person accompanying the dog for the duration which the dog is in a public place.

In the case in the names ‘Police vs. Pantalleresco et’[5], the Court in respect to the duty owed by the owner or keeper of a dog stated; “L-għaqal jitlob min ikun fil-pussess ta’ kelb u jkun ħa joħorġu jagħmel il-bżonnijiet tiegħu, l-ewwel ikun żgur li l-kelb tlibbes iċ-ċinga u mbagħad jiftaħ il-bieb. F’dan il-każ ma ġarax hekk”.

The lex specialis on the keeping of dogs also provides for the confinement of a dog in one’s home and the necessary requirements of such confinement. Additionally, the method of transportation is also provided for, ensuring the necessary protective measures for others and himself throughout the voyage.

For more information or assistance please contact Dr Robert Tufigno and Dr Delilah Vella

[1] Alicia Bugeja Said, ‘The Malta Independent’ (More open spaces for dogs).

[2] Chapter 439, Laws of Malta,

[3] Chapter 312, Laws of Malta.

[4] Police vs. Charlene Carmen Formosa and Mario Formosa, Court of Criminal Appeal (Inferior),15 February, 2022.

[5] Police vs. Pantalleresco, Court of Magistrates (Criminal Judicature), 11 July 2019.

Disclaimer This article is not intended to impart legal advice and readers are asked to seek verification of statements made before acting on them.
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