At last, some movement on dangerous dogs issue

Sunday, November 10, 2019

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Finally, there appears to be some movement among legislators on the issue of owners of dangerous dogs not being held to account when their pets attack and either injure or kill people.

On Friday, Government Senator Kerensia Morrison introduced a motion in the Upper House stating that the provisions of the 1877 Dogs (Liability for Injuries) Act have proven insufficient to encourage vigilance and discourage neglect among dog owners.

As we reported yesterday, Senator Morrison argued that the Government needs to give urgent attention to amending legislation to include effective penalties, including criminal prosecution against dog owners, for negligence in incidents of vicious attacks on citizens.

The senator also proposed that consideration should be given for legislation to be enacted for the regulation of dog ownership, such as the registration and grading of dogs, particularly for known aggressive breeds.

While the legislators deal with this issue, we suggest that they take into consideration a recommendation made by Ms Tammy Browne, director of non-profit organisation Montego Bay Animal Haven, in an interview with this newspaper last year, for amendments to the laws to manage how dogs are bred and raised. Those factors, Ms Browne had argued, contribute to erratic behaviour by dogs that may result in injury or death to humans.

We recall Ms Browne's recommendation vividly because it came after we reported the death of 66-year-old Mr Whittington Cole in July last year.

Readers will recall that Mr Cole was on a late-night walk in his Hampton Green community in St Catherine when he was attacked by four dogs reported to be pit bulls and Rottweilers.

At the time, the Jamaica Veterinary Medical Association had also recommended the establishment of a mechanism for the regulation and certification of dog trainers.

During that time, as well, Mr Audley Shaw, the minister of industry, commerce, agriculture and fisheries, told us that he had ordered a review of the century-old Dog Liability and Cruelty to Animals acts. He also said that he wanted the review fast-tracked because he didn't want Mr Cole's death to be in vain.

Since then, the country has not heard much more on this issue from Minister Shaw. However, we trust that he will now use the impending debate in Parliament to speak to the review he ordered.

In addition, he needs to expand on his statement that he would not rule out imposing a ban on the importation of these types of dogs. For that, we suspect, is a part of the problem the lucrative trade in the importation of animals, some of which pose a danger to humans.

Given that we are almost into the Christmas season, we don't expect that this debate will open and be completed before the Parliament goes on its break. However, we urge legislators to give the matter priority when they resume in January.

Too many lives have already been shattered by this problem.

The need for modern legislation that meets international standards and guidelines is urgent.


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