[WATCH] New zoo rules in limbo as impact study findings being studied

Animal Rights Minister Anton Refalo has confirmed that the impact assessment on new zoo regulations has been finalised but cannot give a time frame as to when it will be published 

Animal Rights Minister Anton Refalo
Animal Rights Minister Anton Refalo

An impact assessment on new zoo regulations has been finalised, but Animal Rights Minister Anton Refalo will not be publishing it until the report is reviewed internally.

Back in November, Refalo had confirmed that an impact assessment over amendments to the zoos regulations was being carried out and promised it would be presented within weeks.

While the impact assessment is finished, it is unclear whether it will ever be available to the public. Refalo said that the ministry would eventually publish a policy paper on the issue instead of the full impact assessment.

“I don’t have a time frame, but I can confirm that the impact assessment is ready and in the hands of the relevant department,” he said.

The department responsible for zoo regulation hired AIS Environment Ltd to conduct a social, environmental and economic impact assessment of the proposed zoo legislation.

The contract cost €8,673, including VAT, but Refalo did not reveal whether the contract was assigned through a tender or a direct order.

Once the ministry evaluates the assessment in total, a legal notice will be published to overhaul the 2003 regulations titled The Keeping of Wild Animals in Zoos.

In November, the Animal Rights Ministry published a draft legal notice introducing tighter rules on zoos that will ban animal petting.

But 24 hours later, the government changed the notice to allow animal petting so long as it is done under the supervision of the zoo’s vet.

No explanation was given for the change.

The petting of cubs is a staple attraction in local zoos, with visitors paying up to €100 for a private family viewing with the wild animals. Such viewings also include taking photos with the cubs and holding them.

Marine parks also allow visitors to swim with dolphins at their facilities.

Zookeepers opposed the new rules when they were first released, and Labour politicians Alex Agius Saliba and Clayton Bartolo posted photos of themselves petting tiger cubs on their social media accounts.

READ MORE: Zoo impact assessment to be presented in coming weeks, minister says