First off, for anyone wondering where Malta is, it’s an island located in the heart of the Mediterranean Sea.
The story isn’t about where Malta is but what’s happening to resident Ronnie Scicluna, a man whose love of dogs has landed him in jail.
Mr Scicluna’s story goes back a few years. Unable to see sick or abandoned animals on the streets, he began to pick them up, housing them at the former Palm Beach Restaurant, now a derelict building in Baar i-agaq.
The number of dogs started increasing and so did the complaints from residents, who lived just metres away and could no longer tolerate the incessant barking 24 hours a day, or the fact the place had turned into a slum.
She roped in Noah’s Ark, an animal welfare organisation in Melliea, and together they re-homed some 40 dogs, relieving Mr Scicluna of his burden and getting the authorities off his back.
Residents’ grievances reached the authorities’ ears and Mr Scicluna was threatened with eviction. In 2006, Joan Baker, a retired English lady with a big heart, intervened to help Mr Scicluna.
Things improved for a while but then homeless and injured dogs started showing up again. Mr. Scicluna couldn’t help but resort to picking them up and bringing them back to the original compound, resulting in fines.
Faced with pending fines and unable to pay them, Mr Scicluna was thrown in jail. An e-mail is now being circulated by his supporters who are claiming the authorities have abdicated their responsibilities.
However, animal organisations are not surprised that Mr Scicluna landed in jail, even though they are sorry to see him in such a spot.
“Rennie’s heart is in the right place, but he doesn’t have the know-how or the resources. He could not look after the animals properly and he kept big dogs with the smaller ones. We tried to help, but after a while we gave up,” said Brenda Swift, president and co-founder of Share Malta (Support for Homeless Animals, Research and Education).
Those in favor of Rennie Scicluna say he needs to be released from jail, he shouldn’t be there. His opponents feel that he has been hoarding the dogs and consider that a form of animal cruelty.
I don’t know what kind of conditions the dogs were kept in, but isn’t anything better than a throw-a-way dog left on the streets because no one else would help? If there was a system in place for homeless animals, which they say they’re now working on, Rennie Scicluna would never have been put in a position to break the law.
Give me a bark, let me know what you think about what happened to Mr. Scicluna.