Pour encourager les autres – and not before time

Published: October 3, 2011 at 8:58pm

Joseph Galea, 58, has been fined €20,000 and jailed for nine months (not suspended) after admitting that he was the one who tied that boxer puppy, while still alive, into a dustbin bag and threw it into a council skip.

He probably thought he would get off with a slap on the wrist, so imagine his surprise. He has appealed and also said that he doesn’t have the money to pay the fine, which means he will have to spend more time in prison instead.

I hope people fully understand that it is cruelty which the law considers, and which has been punished here, and not killing a dog or any other kind of animal for that matter.

You are perfectly entitled to kill your dog, but you have to do it humanely, and that means quickly, efficiently and as painlessly as possible. So, unless you are an excellent shot and know what you’re doing, the only way is to head for the vet and let the doctor do it.

To save paying the vet’s fee for putting the animal down, Galea walked carrying the dog in a bag from his home in Birgu to Kalkara, where he dumped it.

But when the news of its discovery broke, somebody spoke to the police, probably having recognised the dog.

So now, instead of paying around €20 to a vet and being done with it, he has to add another three noughts to that and spend nine months in prison. And that’s what I mean about pour encourager les autres. Now people who were thinking of doing the same will not, because it’s just not worth it.

Galea’s lawyer said that he has five children, implying that they are financially dependent on him so he cannot be sent to prison. I hardly think it likely that a man of 58 has dependent children, let alone five of them, but he does then social services should certainly keep a close eye on the home.

As the RSPCA in Britain has said, when it rescues neglected or abused animals from homes, it often finds that social services have to be called in to rescue the children next.

71 Comments Comment

  1. heartburn says:

    Let’s just hope that the Appeals Court will not reduce it to a suspended sentence.

    Such people – and there are many, many more, I assure you – need to pay for their inhumanity. And, as you said, this should hopefuly be a deterrent to prevent such actions.

  2. Dee says:

    It would have cost him a lot less if he took the poor creature to the vet to be put down humanely and then incinerated. Around 50 euros or less.

  3. mark v says:

    The man needs psychological treatment himself. Heavy fines and sentences will serve as a deterrent, in this case a dog is dead and a man’s life ruined.

    The public and the media got their revenge. All this is insane and out of proportion.

    • janine says:

      Well, tough for him that his life is now ruined. He should have thought about this during the hour he walked from Birgu to Kalkara – so there was plenty of time to reflect and think of his children. Now he has to suffer the consequences of his actions.

      • markv says:

        Janine, some people have low IQ. Most probably this man did not even think about it.

      • Michela says:

        @ Markv: Ahjar ghalih. I personally think that he deserved a far worse punishment. Maybe one should consider tying him up and throwing him into a skip in the sweltering heat, so that he will learn about common decency towards living creatures.

  4. Dee says:

    On the first day that applications for divorce started being accepted, the GWU on Joe Grima’s programme on One TV seems to be thinking of re-marrying the MLP, after divorcing it some years ago.

  5. Harry Purdie says:

    Lots of good legal stuff today.

    A magistrate stands up straight and imprisons a beast for killing another one.

    The new President of the Chamber of Advocates berates the judiciary to keep their members in line.

    Amanda Knox cleared due to sloppy police work.

    Lessons for all here.

  6. JoeM says:

    Thanks for putting the story into perspective.

    When I read the report this morning, I thought that the punishment was a wee bit too excessive.

    I even tended to agree with Peppi Azzopardi’s comments on timesofmalta.com’s comment-board, where he condemned the killing of rabbits just to end up in our Sunday stew pot.

    It’s the cruelty that’s being punished here. Nothing more, nothing less. The sheer atrocity of it all. Indeed, to discourage the others.

    • Kenneth Cassar says:

      Peppi, in his utopian zeal, got it doubly wrong.

      First of all, this is simply a case of the law being enforced. Nothing more, nothing less.

      Secondly, and following from the first, while I tend to agree with him that no animal should be killed for food whenever possible, the killing of animals is not illegal. As far as the law is concerned, what matters is how non-human animals are killed.

  7. sap says:

    Putting a healthy animal down is also “cruel”, even if it’s done humanely.

    That ‘s why sanctuaries urge people to neuter dogs/cats – because the supply is greater than the demand. And by neutering your pets one won’t need to drown puppies/kittens because no one wants them.

  8. Tim Ripard says:

    It’s a very harsh sentence, I think. Way over the top.

    • Harry Purdie says:

      Really, Tim? I usually agree with your comments, but here we part ways.

      ‘Harsh’ would be to stick him in a green garbage bag, fasten it securely, and throw him into a skip.

      • Tim Ripard says:

        And what would that achieve?

        This guy appears to be mentally deficient and miserly. He clearly doesn’t understand the meaning of cruelty.

        Killing him cruelly will teach him a lesson and then get rid of him but it will also cause pain and suffering to his dependents (if he has any) and loved ones (if he has any).

        Making him a pauper for the rest of his life isn’t gonna be much good to society either, is it? Especially when more serious crimes are punished much more lightly.

        In any case, fines are arbitrary unless they are calculated as a percentage of income, like in Switzerland.

        Fining him 50% of a year’s income and making him do 500 hours of community service, preferably taking care of animals, might just reform him, however and I’d plump for something along those lines.

        Frankly – and this has nothing to do with cruelty, which I abhor, so please, animal lovers, keep calm – I see pets as a waste of resources, but that’s just my opinion and I wouldn’t dream of denying anyone who wants to be tied down to a pet’s routine and expense from not being allowed to do so. I’m sure many others will consider €25 a month to see men on TV running around kicking a ball (plus the cost to see the odd live game) as another waste of resources but I’m sure that they don’t mind me doing it.

      • ciccio2011 says:

        True, Harry.

        But I wouldn’t blame him completely.

        Maybe he thought he was throwing the dog in Labour’s skip. Nobody ever got imprisoned for doing that.

      • Harry Purdie says:

        Tim, I find your retort weak and unconvincing.

        How do you know he’s mentally deficient? The judge didn’t think so.

        He appears to already be a pauper. If he can’t pay the fine, lengthen the sentence. ‘More serious crimes’ should also be treated more ‘harshly’ than presently.

        Where did you get the idea that fines in Switzerland are proportionately allotted according to income? I live there also. Fines are to be paid immediately or off to the slammer–income has nothing to do with the size of a fine.

        Will not bother to comment on the contents of your last paragraph. Too bizarre for me.

    • TROY says:

      Tim Ripard, how about getting into a bag and spending two days in a skip yourself to find out what the poor dog went through – and then let us know if you still think that the sentence was very harsh.

    • janine says:

      The idiot got what he deserves.

    • Tim Ripard says:


      The guy must be pretty thick to commit his crime the way he did – walking a mile or more in broad daylight with a dog in a plastic bag.

      If he’s already a pauper then that makes the fine even more harsh than necessary and will lead to real suffering for his dependent children.

      Some time ago I read an article about a Swedish guy who was fined something like €600,000 (give or take) for speeding – in Switzerland (in some super Merc). The fine was so high because it was proportionate to his income, the article said, so I wish you luck should you ever fall foul of a speed camera there.

      I thought my last para was original but, as always, I respect your right to differ.

      • Harry Purdie says:

        Tim, thank you for your rapid response. Thought I would have to wait a few days while you did your research on Swiss laws. Now I see it was an article in some Swedish blurb.

        Let me take you through my thoughts on this matter.

        ‘Thick’ people should be punished, as this judge did, enforcing an, up to now, unenforced law. An appeal, duly followed, may prove his ‘thickness’, and show leniency. No problem.

        His ‘dependent children’, as alluded to by the defence, has yet to be substantiated. His photo appeared to a indicate a healthy appearance. Probably better fed than his now murdered dog.

        With respect to Switzerland, I have often been fined in Switzerland for speeding on the autoroutes. (I drive a Mercedes there also, and the ‘pot holeless’ roads invite you to speed.). The fines I receive are automatic, depending on how much I exceeded the limit.

        Never was I questioned on my income.

        I assume this Swede was way, way over the limit. The fines are exponential in Switzerland.

        The guy was fortunate that the police didn’t clamp or confiscate his car, take his driving permit and make him walk to the police station (or home). One never messes with the Swiss police. Somewhat different than the local gendarmes and the endless assaults they receive. Are they all wimps?

        Yes, your last paragraph was original.

        Don’t think I’ve ever read such a unique perspective on keeping pets. Must tell my grandchildren that their little kitty is wasting resources.

    • kev says:

      Cruelty to animals is a far more serious crime then, say, the consensual crime of drug trafficking – but this is understood by only the very few.

  9. Anthony says:

    Di-ve says six children.

    58 years of age and still maintaining six children and three dogs on a watchman’s salary.

    Who needs a living wage?

  10. Joseph (not Muscatt) says:

    “I hardly think it likely that a man of 58 has dependent children”.

    Saviour Balzan will have at least one.

  11. 'Angus Black says:

    Finally, a sentence which fits the crime.

    Mr. Galea was quoted as saying that he cannot afford to maintain the children (while he worked, I suppose). Well he should have thought about it before he killed his dog mercilessly.

    How on earth will he come up with e20,000 and pay a lawyer for the appeal? An extended jail term methinks.

  12. heidi1015 says:

    Daphne, yes, this man unfortunately still has very young children, as young as 10.

    I do not know how to put this, but they are that type of family who live in a world of their own and they live only on the basic necessities.

    They always parade their dogs through the main square. One of them is a cute chihuahua whose leash is too big for its neck.

    I pity his children, especially the small ones. They truly do not know any better. They rarely (if ever) attend school and they really, really do not know any better.

    I sincerely hope that social workers are put on this case so that maybe and hopefully the very young ones are given a new opportunity in life and this story would have been their turning point in life.

    • Mark says:

      Quite right. I see them pretty much every day in Birgu. We’re talking outcasts here, and very poor. They’re not bad people, just completely clueless and uneducated.

    • janine says:

      Then perhaps his children should be taken away into care if this man is so irresponsible and so ignorant. His children are being deprived of a basic education.

  13. the other kev says:

    Dear Daphne, I strongly disagree with your point about people being perfectly entitled to end their dog’s life.

    [Daphne – If people are entitled to end the life of a pig or a cow, then so it is with a dog.]

    Although we hardly acknowledge the sentiments and feelings expressed by our companions, the decision to end a life should only be made after all other options have been exhausted.

    Many veterinarians, even here in Malta, object to putting an animal down unnecessarily, and rightly so.

    As a society, we are gradually moving from an anthropocentric to a biocentric perspective of life, valuing all life and realising that although different, every living creature has a right to life.

    My diversion with what Peppi Azzopardi was stating in his comments stems from the fact that in culling animals to feed humans, a higher purpose is being served, thus it is both morally and ethically acceptable to take life for this purpose, then again, only if it is done humanely.

    In the wider perspective of things, however, morals apart, vegetarianism is the only practical, and sustainable solution to feed this overpopulated planet.

    [Daphne – If cows were not raised for beef, there would be no cows at all, bar those kept for milk. They would be killed off because nobody is going to keep them for fun.]

    Very soon, there will simply be not enough land to sustain the livestock that shall be needed to sustain, in turn, the ever growing demand for meat and meat products as nations develop. In this respect, the arguments towards vegetarianism have to be embraced and adopted as very soon both land and food will inevitably become scarcer commodities.

    • A. Charles says:

      I only eat animals that are vegetarian.

    • Kenneth Cassar says:

      @ the other kev:

      Daphne is correct. People are legally entitled to end a dog’s life, as long as they do it “humanely”.

      Whether people are morally entitled to do so (unless it is euthanasia in its proper sense, which should be uncontroversial – but I’ll admit it isn’t), is another question.

      Different people have different moral standards, and it’s only the law that sets a common standard for all.

      Those who disagree with any law have two options: to campaign to change public perceptions and opinions, and to campaign to change the law.

      While many vets try to persuade people not to have their dogs killed unless the dog is suffering and terminally ill, if the owner insists, they usually still do it themselves…and this for a good reason – if they don’t, the owner either goes to another vet and kills the dog anyway, or else might kill the dog him/herself in a less humane way.

      Regarding killing (culling is not correct in this context – culling is when animals are killed to keep the numbers down) non-human animals for food being justified because a higher purpose is being served, you must ask yourself: whose higher purpose?

      Certainly not the non-human animal’s. That kind of reasoning exemplifies the anthropocentrism you mention. I don’t wish to derail the topic much, so I’ll stop here.

      As for Daphne’s assertion that if cows were not raised for beef, there would be no cows at all, that would only be a problem for people who wish cows not to go extinct. Someone who doesn’t exist cannot care about his/her inexistence, and it could be argued that no existence at all is preferable to a life of suffering and a violent death (particularly for those in “factory-farms”).

      But yes, if cows were not raised for beef or milk, they would either be killed off, or at most, some would be kept at animal sanctuaries or zoos.

      • el bandido guapo says:

        “Someone who doesn’t exist cannot care about his/her inexistence, ”

        A dead animal falls into this category.

        This is just one reason why killing animals for food (humanely of course) is not the bad thing that vegetarians make it out to be.

        Nevertheless, I do agree with many points raised by “the other kev” that we don’t need to eat all this much meat and that the world would be a better place if we did reduce our consumption.

        We are not vegetarians by nature. For a vegetarian animal, look at a cow. We are designed to be omnivorous, and indeed, leaving aside non-naturally occurring substitutes, animal protein is a necessary part of our diet.

      • Kenneth Cassar says:

        @ el bandito guapo:

        1. A dead animal would have been alive before he is killed. Animal rights is not about preserving species. Its about refraining from killing or causing suffering to others whenever possible.

        2. By saying that we are not vegetarians by nature in support of eating meat, you commit what is called the naturalistic fallacy, which loosely translated is “natural = right, unnatural = bad”. This fallacy is quickly exposed each time anyone gets a natural illness and pops in his mouth an unnatural pill or medicine.

      • A. Charles says:

        @ Kenneth Cassar
        I lost all my respect for vegetarians when I learnt that Hitler was one.

        Prince Charles once broke his hand playing golf and an orthopaedic surgeon said that the prince, being a vegetarian, heals slowly and badly.

      • Kenneth Cassar says:

        @ A Charles:

        “I lost all my respect for vegetarians when I learnt that Hitler was one”.

        Then, I am happy to inform you that you may regain your respect for vegetarians. Despite the myth, Hitler wasn’t one.

        In any case, for one to say he lost respect for vegetarians just because one of them would have been Hitler, is one of the most xenophobic sentiments I have ever seen expressed. Hitler himself would have been proud.

        Should I lose respect for meat-eaters just because the overwhelming majority of genocodists, murderers, rapists, and child-molesters were meat-eaters? Certainly not! I am no xenophobe!

        Think before you speak.

        By the way, you got your facts all wrong. Prince Charles, too, is not (and never was) a vegetarian.

      • Kenneth Cassar says:

        @ A Charles:

        Not that it matters much, but have a look at this:


      • A. Charles says:

        @Kenneth Cassar,
        Grow up and take any comments you do not like with a pinch of salt. I paraphrase Amos Oz who said that fundamentalists do not have a sense of humour and you, Kenneth must be a fundamentalist vegetarian.

      • Kenneth Cassar says:

        @ A Charles:

        Just in case you’re worrying that some vegetarian friend or relative will have problems healing a fracture:

        Q: “My stress fracture hasn’t healed in six months. Could my vegetarian diet be slowing the healing process?”

        A: Unlikely, if you are eating a balanced vegetarian diet that is rich in tofu, beans, nuts, and other plant proteins. But if your vegetarian diet is simply a meatless diet that lacks alternate proteins, YES!


      • Kenneth Cassar says:

        @ A Charles:

        “Grow up and take any comments you do not like with a pinch of salt”.

        Predictable response from someone who was proven wrong.

        “I paraphrase Amos Oz who said that fundamentalists do not have a sense of humour and you, Kenneth must be a fundamentalist vegetarian”.

        Then you don’t know me at all. But please do enlighten me. Which was the humorous bit? Was it the comparing vegetarians to Hitler one? Should we smile at someone blaming all Jews (past, present and future) for killing Jesus, or is it just vegetarians who don’t matter?

      • Kenneth Cassar says:

        @ A Charles:

        “Grow up and take any comments you do not like with a pinch of salt”.

        I do take comments I do not like with a pinch of salt. However, I do not take lies, falsehood and slander lightly.

        And what would be your response if someone told you “I lost respect for black people when I learnt that Idi Amin was one”? Would you take it with a pinch of salt?

    • Antoine Vella says:

      Kev, I would like to see you ‘respecting’ the life of a mosquito that had just bitten you.

  14. John Schembri says:

    So on another thread we read comments that a single mother who smuggled cocaine into Malta should have a lighter sentence.

    And here we have the advocates who don’t give a damn about this person’s family, whose intentions were not harming anyone except (maybe) the poor dog.

    The person who dumped the sick dog in a skip likes dogs and he treats them the way we Maltese used to (ignorantly) do for ages.

    His action was the result of his ignorance: “The dog is very sick. I won’t kill it, but can’t afford a vet , so dump it in the Kalkara skip.”

    We still see watch dogs on roofs in the scorching sun – isn’t that cruelty?

    • Kenneth Cassar says:

      The children are the responsibility of their parents, and no one else. I’m sure you would never suggest that anyone who is a parent should go scot-free, no matter the crime.

      As for dogs on roofs in the scorching sun – yes, that is cruelty too.

  15. Herbie says:

    Yes, I do think social services should look into the plight of these children.

    I have often met this man at the village where he works as a watchman at a public toilet, accompanied by a young boy, who he had said was his grandson, during school hours.

    I often remarked to him that that the boy should be at school rather than out fishing, which is what the boy would be doing at the time.

    I also feel the man himself needs help and that the punishment meted out is too harsh.

    I do sincerely hope that this will serve as a deterrent to cruelty.

  16. Etil says:

    Daphne, I really have to congratulate you on your ability to put in writing what some people would have difficulty in doing.

    It is one thing expressing one’s thoughts verbally and quite another putting it in writing.

    My opinion is also that if people are cruel to animals, they are cruel in every respect to their wives/husbands and children.

    Some people keep animals just for their sadistic pleasures. Check out also the dog fights that go on, etc.

    • Kenneth Cassar says:

      “My opinion is also that if people are cruel to animals, they are cruel in every respect to their wives/husbands and children”.

      Not necessarily. In cases of extreme cruelty (this is not one), it is highly likely that the person would be (or would develop into) someone who would also be cruel to vulnerable humans.

      However, many people who are cruel to non-human animals are so because they reason that they “are just animals”, which is a problem that can be addressed through proper education.

  17. Dee says:

    If God meant me to be vegetarian, he would not have given me canines.

    • Kenneth Cassar says:

      “If God meant me to be vegetarian, he would not have given me canines”.

      That must be the silliest and most recurring non-argument against vegetarianism.

      A murderer would tell you: “if God did not mean me to strangle you, he would not have given me two strong hands”.

      The funny thing is that, according to the bible, Adam and Eve were meant by God to be vegetarians (read Genesis), but apparently, God later changed his mind and allowed them to eat meat.

  18. Sarah says:

    Well done to Magistrate Anthony Vella! After so much public outcry for harsher punishments we are finally being heard. Pity that this didn’t happen in Star’s case.

  19. janine says:

    Finally, someone has been punished accordingly for his heinous crime.

    I work as a volunteer in a dog sanctuary and only too often we come across all sorts of cruelty, from skeletal dogs, to dogs dumped in bins, dogs with limbs chopped off and so on.

    None of this reaches the media – and we nurse them back to health and even find them good homes.

    Sadly people only learn through harsh punishments. So I see this as a way forward in animal welfare.

  20. Pat says:

    I am an animal lover and whilst I am keen to see crimes like these punished, I consider this judgment way over the top.

    Its scare value is achieved only at massive cost to the individual and his family.

    Surely this was a case where a reasonably long suspended sentence and participation in some community/educational programme would have been more reasonable. Sometimes I despair.

    Incidentally I don’t believe anyone is morally justified in taking the life of any animal for no reason at all. Just because they are allowed to do so by our laws doesn’t make it right.

    PS: Cows are killed for food. I wouldn’t compare that to a mink or a baby seal killed for its coat. Hopefully the day will come where there will be a viable alternative to meat.

    • Kenneth Cassar says:

      @ Pat:

      “Its scare value is achieved only at massive cost to the individual and his family”.

      The punishment for the crime is given by the court to the person who commits the crime. The punishment to his family is given by the criminal himself. If sentences were to be reduced when the criminal has children under his care, it would pay for criminals to have loads of children to avoid punishment.

      “Surely this was a case where a reasonably long suspended sentence…”.

      It wasn’t his first offence related to animal cruelty. He should have know better.

      “Incidentally I don’t believe anyone is morally justified in taking the life of any animal for no reason at all. Just because they are allowed to do so by our laws doesn’t make it right….Hopefully the day will come where there will be a viable alternative to meat”.

      First of all, you’re contradicting yourself. Secondly, there are already viable alternatives to meat, for anyone who bothers to check.

      • Pat says:

        The point I was trying to make is that this sentence it totally out of proportion TO OTHER cases. How can one justify such a stiff sentence when others appear to be so lenient?

        I’m afraid I don’t see where I’m contradicting myself. Can you explain further?

        PS: It’s debatable whether the alternatives to meat that exist today are viable.

      • Kenneth Cassar says:

        @ Pat:

        “The point I was trying to make is that this sentence it totally out of proportion TO OTHER cases. How can one justify such a stiff sentence when others appear to be so lenient?”.

        True, but you have to start somewhere. If you don’t, the sentences will always remain lenient. And then, people will justifiably complain.

        “I’m afraid I don’t see where I’m contradicting myself. Can you explain further?”.

        My mistake. You wrote: “Incidentally I don’t believe anyone is morally justified in taking the life of any animal FOR NO REASON AT ALL” (my caps). I missed the part where you wrote “for no reason at all”. Of course, it could be argued that there is always a reason, and what matters is whether the reason is justifiable…but that’s another question. No, you did not contradict yourself. You have my apologies.

        “It’s debatable whether the alternatives to meat that exist today are viable”.

        Is it possible that today, in the year 2011, people still question whether there are alternatives to meat? I’ve been a vegetarian for about 23 years. I’ve had a medical check up last month (including blood tests), and was found in perfect health. I even enjoy the occasional barbecued vegetarian burgers, vegetarian sausages, vegetarian bacon, vegetarian roast and even vegetarian “chicken” nuggets. You can find all this in supermarkets. Of course, these would be the “fast food” of vegetarians, so I wouldn’t recommend basing one’s diet on them, but a little bit on occasion won’t hurt. There are plenty of healthy vegetarian recipes around – even online – if you’re really interested.

  21. paddy says:

    He got what he deserves in this bully society.

  22. Pamela says:

    Dear Daphne,

    Knowing that your blog is popular, could it be possible to mention Saturday’s vigil which is organised by a world wide organisation against animal cruelty?

    If you’ll accept, I will forward the details to you.


    [Daphne – Pamela, feel free to upload them as a comment.]

  23. Pamela says:

    October 8th 2011

    A vigil, organised by the World Event to End Animal Cruelty, will be taking place on the above-mentioned date.
    Venue: Pieta (near Bocci Club) i.e. In front of ex-Sa Maison hotel.
    Time:16:30-19:00 (candle night vigil at 18:30)
    Please bring a candle, dog bowls & water.
    Mob: 99866333 Fleur Cilia Buckett

    Hope to see all animal lovers there!


  24. TROY says:

    The media reported that Mr Galea’s other dogs were taken away by the Animal Welfare Dept.

    This is not so, because the dogs have been left there in appalling conditions.

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