Pampered and protected

Pet groomers and sitters: what you need to know about the new rules.

What is a pet groomer? What is the difference between a pet groomer and a pet sitter? What must licensed persons have to provide service to domestic animals?

We explored all this with the Parliamentary Secretary for Fisheries, Aquaculture, and Animal Rights, Alicia Bugeja Said, as new regulations were announced for groomers and pet sitters or boarders.

Alicia Bugeja Said, Parliamentary Secretary for Fisheries, Aquaculture, and Animal Rights, with a furry friend.

What is the primary objective of the new regulations?

The primary objective is to safeguard animal welfare. This ensures that individuals operating in these sectors have the qualifications, skills, and knowledge to take care of domestic animals, thus addressing the current lack of regulation in these fields.

What has been the situation so far?

Pet grooming establishments and pet sitting accommodations were not regulated. This is not to say that they were not offering good services, but this regulatory gap has often left pet owners uncertain about the quality of care their pets receive.

How were these regulations developed?

A comprehensive public consultation process was carried out. A Consultation Document was published on the Government portal between October and November last year, and 137 comments were received from various interested parties. Consultation meetings were held in Malta and Gozo, attended by various interested parties, NGOs, and individuals. Further consultations were held with the Council for the Protection of Animals, the Commissioner for the Protection of Animals, the Chamber of Small and Medium Businesses, and the Planning Authority. The proposals were well received, and the input from these sessions was essential to create the final regulations.

What are the main procedures of these rules?

The main provisions include:

  • Registration and Licensing: Establishments must register and be licensed.
  • Qualifications: The staff must meet specific qualifications and requirements.
  • Obligations: Operators must adhere to various obligations related to the care and welfare of animals.
  • Penalties: There are defined penalties for breaking the regulations.

What defines a pet boarder and pet sitter under the new regulations?

A pet boarder is a person who can accommodate five or more animals in a place, including private homes, for temporary care. A pet sitter is someone who can accommodate up to four animals for a period of no more than two weeks. Both roles require licensing or registration and must adhere to specific standards to ensure the welfare of the animals in their care.

What do you need to do to get a license or registration?

Applicants must:

  • Send detailed information about the applicant, the building, the staff, and the veterinary health control programmes.
  • Provide relevant licenses or permits.
  • Ensure that all staff have acceptable qualifications, including at least one person with a certificate in animal first aid.
  • Ensure that neither the applicants nor their staff have been found guilty of animal cruelty.
  • Keep records of all animals under their care for a minimum of two years.
  • Only accept animals that are fully vaccinated.
Could you explain some of the operating standards?

Those who want to operate in this sector must:

  • Provide appropriate housing for animals with suitable construction, size, temperature, lighting, ventilation, and cleanliness.
  • Provide enclosures that keep animals from escaping or running away.
  • Install CCTV in boarding establishments to monitor animal areas.
  • Prevent the spread of disease and provide isolation facilities for sick or injured animals.
  • Inspect the animals regularly and keep detailed records of the care and requirements of each animal.
What are the penalties for non-compliance with these regulations?

One may face administrative fines or criminal charges. The Director has the authority to suspend or revoke licenses and registrations if establishments fail to meet the required standards. The regulations allow for administrative fines under Article 47 of the Act, which provide a mechanism for enforcement and compliance. These fines can reach up to €100,000.

Do you have to pay to get a license?

Yes, there are fees for licensing pet boarding establishments and registering pet sitting accommodations. These are paid upon application and renewal, and ensure that establishments contribute to the administrative costs of maintaining regulatory oversight.

What kind of impact do you think these new regulations will have?

They should significantly improve animal welfare by ensuring that only qualified and capable individuals are allowed to operate pet grooming, boarding, and sitting services. This will provide peace of mind to pet owners and raise standards of care within the industry, ultimately leading to better health and welfare for the animals involved.

Main photo: Gustavo Fring

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