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Don't lose this opportunity to deal with dangerous dogs

Tuesday, September 04, 2018

The passionate debate triggered by this newspaper's report on the killing of 66-year-old Mr Whittington Cole by a pack of dangerous dogs in July is necessary and, hopefully, will lead to amendments to the legislation governing these animals.

Readers will recall that Mr Cole was on a late night walk in his Hampton Green community in St Catherine on July 21 when he was attacked by four dogs believed to be pit bulls and rottweilers.

Since the publication of this awful experience, Mr Audley Shaw, the minister of industry, commerce, agriculture and fisheries, has said that he has ordered a review of the century-old Dog Liability and Cruelty to Animals acts. In fact, Minister Shaw had said that he wanted the review fast-tracked because he didn't want Mr Cole's death to be in vain.

“Every owner of these dangerous animals must understand that they have a duty and a responsibility to be extra protective of the community in which they live,” Minister Shaw said, adding that he would not rule out imposing a ban on the importation of these types of dogs.

Before we spoke to Mr Shaw, this newspaper had dialogue with Ms Tammy Browne, the director of non-profit organisation Montego Bay Animal Haven, who called for amendments to the laws to prevent how dogs are bred and raised because those factors, she believes, contribute to erratic behaviour that may result in injury or death.

Ms Browne also suggested the owners of dogs considered to be dangerous should be licensed.

The Jamaica Veterinary Medical Association (JVMA) joined the debate and recommended the establishment of a mechanism for the regulation and certification of dog trainers.

The JVMA also suggested that the country redouble its efforts at reviewing outdated acts and creating modern animal welfare legislation that meets international standards and guidelines for public education and dog population control, for the protection of both people and animals.

These are measures that we believe need to be given urgent attention by legislators as soon as possible. Indeed, the issue must not be allowed to die as it has in the past after each deadly dog attack. For, as we pointed out in this space last month, the country has, more than once, been down the road of talking about drafting and strengthening laws and other proactive action to prevent dog attacks; outlawing the breeding and domestic ownership of attack dogs; holding accountable people who allow their dogs to stray from home; and putting in place animal pounds and the removal of stray animals — including dogs — from the streets.

We should not let slip this opportunity to deal with this matter in a comprehensive way, as too many lives have already been affected. Also, it appears that some individuals don't really understand the responsibility they have to protect other people, and indeed themselves and their families, when they decide to either acquire, raise and/or breed dangerous dogs.

Mr Cole did not survive the attack unleashed on him last month, and his family will live with that awful memory for the rest of their lives. Master Tafferell Taffe, just seven years old, is still haunted by his experience with a vicious pit bull when he was just three years old. His reflection, printed in yesterday's edition, is enough to move even the most callous among us: “I am afraid of dogs; I don't like them. I always remember what happened. I can't forget it because it was the worst day ever for me.”