Wednesday, April 17, 2024

‘Hold dog owners accountable’

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More must be done to hold negligent pet owners accountable.

However, while retired Barbados Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (BSPCA) chief inspector Wayne Norville said there needs to be a greater push to ensure all pets are licensed, he also said mandatory insurance policies for large pets could lead to a reduction in dog attacks.

“We have too many irresponsible dog owners out there now. There are too many people in Barbados who have dogs that are not licensed. If you have a dog that is licensed, you know your name is there and you are responsible.

“If everybody licensed their dogs, the Animal Control Centre could look after itself,” Norville said.

He made those comments in response to a story published in the front page story in Monday’s DAILY NATION that highlighted the concerns of two men who were recently attacked by dogs.

Last week Tuesday, while trying to evade a German Shepherd that attacked him in Prior Park, St James, Terry Jones broke his right wrist.

On Saturday around 6:40 a.m., a pit bull bit Anthony Reid in four places while he was jogging along Waterford Bottom, St Michael. He called for the banning of “killer dogs”.

When asked about his views on dangerous dogs legislation, Norville said while efforts to impose that type of legislation were unsuccessful, he made another suggestion to tackle the “fad” of people acquiring large dogs they were unable to adequately care for.

“The dogs are the American pit bulls, bullies, and I am seeing a trend where everybody wants those dogs and the majority of the people I’ve seen are not responsible dog owners. A lot of them don’t know anything about the breed or the proper feeding procedures.

“They saw somebody else with one and decided they want one too but when the novelty wears off, they either let it go, tie it in the yard and throw a little food at it. . . but the day the dog gets off the chain and the premises, everybody is a threat to that dog,” he said.

He added: “We were trying to get a Dangerous Dog Act in Barbados for years. I think that there should be some law that states if you are going to bring a dog that is going to weigh more than 150 pounds in Barbados; you should have some sort of insurance. A dog that is 75 and 80 pounds, a child has no chance with it.”

President of the General Insurance Association of Barbados (GIAB), Randy Graham said although there was some coverage for pets, they may not cover those kinds of situations.

He, however, suggested there could be a need for further discussions on the topic.

“If the animal injures somebody on their premises, a typical comprehensive homeowner’s insurance policy might offer some liability cover for the owner. However, if the animal is loose and gets away, I am not certain whether that is the type of thing it contemplated. However, people buy that policy to cover the house not so much to cover the animals.

“Recently there was something in the media which said pet insurance was made available in Barbados. But that insurance covers if the pet is sick or injured and has to get medical care . . . so the short answer is there really is not an insurance policy right now that will cover it and it’s not being sought out by people to buy it, but that is something we can discuss,” Graham said.

In 2017, Verona Gibson, 74, was killed by a pack of dogs at Monroe Road, Haggatt Hall, St Michael. The following year, 81-year-old Enid Small survived a mauling by a bull mastiff and ridgeback at Brighton. In 2022, Elton Hall was mauled at Maynards, St Peter.

Of those cases, one owner received a suspended sentence and another was fined $400.

Last month several residents of Sargeant’s Village Christ Church also shared their concerns about dogs in their area that were causing chaos.

While the President of Be Their Voice Laverne Beresford expressed disappointment in the attacks, she stressed that banning a specific breed of dog was not the solution.

 “It has nothing to do with the breed of the dog. It has to do with the fact that the government has not been proactive in enforcing penalties for people who are neglecting and abandoning dogs all over the island.

“There are ‘normal’ common breed dogs that are attacking people too; not only Akitas and pit bulls,” Beresford said.

Instead, she said more must be done to hold negligent pet owners accountable, by ensuring they license their pets to stamp out animal abuse and to prevent the formation of vicious dog packs.

“There is this fad for people to get these large dogs, but when they can’t afford to feed them a couple of months after, they abandon them, so we are seeing a lot of ‘very good’ breed dogs that are very expensive, being dumped.

“We are finding that stray dogs are bonding and forming packs and if they’re starving and thirsty, their instinct is to attack because they are agitated. They’ve formed these packs and they have the confidence to attack animals and humans whom they feel intimidated by,” she said.

Be Their Voice facilitates a low cost spay and neuter programme and seeks to improve animal welfare through education.

Beresford said there could be more similar incidents if there isn’t strategic government intervention. “Every day we go out there, we are seeing five and six dogs on the street. We’ve begged the government to assist us. It has never been as bad as it is right now. Tourists are seeing what is happening on social media and the question remains, why is the government not assisting with the improvement of animal welfare? It is not a priority because nothing is being done about it so we will continue to see animals attacking both humans and other animals and it is only going to get worse,” she added. (TG)

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