Dog killer given prison sentence in Malta
Alfred Vella, 44, a farmer and licensed hunter from Birzebbuga in Malta, has been sentenced to three months in prison and fined €10,000 after he admitted in court to having shot a dog and buried her alive in his field. It was revealed in court that the dog had been buried for 14 hours before she was rescued by animal welfare officers.
Vella admitted to the charges of animal cruelty and illegal hunting.
Magistrate Edwina Grima said that Mr Vella had committed two very serious crimes - animal cruelty and the production of a home-made firearm. The accused admitted to the police that he shot the dog using a home-made gun made out of a water pipe. He first tied the dog up, then shot her and buried her.
He claimed he shot the dog, who was named Star by her rescuers, because she was old. She was 10 years old and had been called Buttons by a previous owner. The owner had apparently had the dog for 10 years but gave her to Mr Vella when the dog started shedding fur.
Vella admitted that he had used the same home-made gun to kill turtle doves during the close season. He also admitted that he had contravened the Birds Conservation Act of 2006 by shooting Oyster Catchers, a protected bird species (Haematopus Ostralegus), without applying for a permit. He further admitted that he had killed a rat snake (Elaphe) which is protected under the Flora and Fauna Protection Act.
Following the judgement, Mr Vella gave notice of appeal. He was heckled by a small crowd as he left the court building, with a number of people shouting insults at him.
Max Farrugia, Chairman of International Animal Rescue Malta, said that IAR's Facebook page had been flooded with messages from all over the world following the announcement that Star's killer had been arrested. He had also received a significant number of emails asking him to urge the authorities to ensure justice was done.
Farrugia took the opportunity to thank everyone who worked in the animal welfare directorate and the veterinary services who did their best to save Star; the Ministry of Rural Affairs who are setting up a monument in her memory; the Police who worked hard to find the culprit and, last but not least, all those who work hand in hand to try to eradicate cruelty from the island of Malta. He sent a heartfelt thank you to all the animal welfare groups involved.