The association of karozzini owners and drivers has hit back at changes in regulations that limit the time their horses can work, describing the change as “irregular and illegal.”
Forty-nine members of the association have filed a judicial protest over the recent introduction of legal notice 161 under the Animal Welfare Act which banned the use of horse-drawn carriages between 1.00pm and 4.00pm during July and August and limited each horse to a maximum of three working days a week.
Drivers breaching these rules risked a maximum fine of €65,000.
In the protest, lawyer Matthew Brincat said that under the new legal regime, the karozzini drivers were effectively being driven into poverty as they were unable to work during the peak tourist months.
The protest alleges that “no adequate consultation” by the authorities had taken place. There had only been two meetings, the first occurring in 2018 and the second, shortly before the promulgation of the new regulations.
Repeated demands by the karozzini drivers for a copy of the draft bill, which would have allowed them to make suggestions, alternative solutions or highlight points of agreement, had all gone unmet, the protesting parties said.
It was pointed out that the Transport Minister had already introduced detailed regulations regarding the working hours of karozzini drivers and their horses. The animals’ welfare had been “satisfactorily and exhaustively” provided for under the existing legislation cited in the judicial protest.
Moreover, they argued, the legal notice itself was “irregular and illegal” since the law under which it was issued did not give the Minister the power to delegate such decisions to the Animal Welfare Director.
This meant that the Director did not have the power to issue the guidelines which had then become law. L.N. 161 of 2019 was an “arbitrary and irregular piece of legislation, lacking all of the principles of justice”, the protesting parties argued.
As karozzini horses fell under the category of ‘beasts of burden’, were a traditional means of transport and “an iconic product for local tourism”, their welfare fell under the portfolio of the Transport Minister not the Minister for the Environment, Sustainable Development and Climate Change who had issued the new legislation, argued the protestors.
Both international and local vets, specializing in equine care, had assessed the horses and reported that what the animals needed were water and shelters.
The horses were well cared for, said the owners. They would only use the animals on alternate days, check on their health regularly and let them rest between journeys. No licence would be issued unless these conditions were observed, the protest stated.
In the light of all this, the association called upon the Environment Minister, the Parliamentary Secretary for Agriculture, Fisheries and Animal Rights, the Animal Welfare Director and the Attorney General to revoke the new legislation, warning that they were reserving the right to further legal action.
Lawyer Matthew Brincat signed the judicial protest.