Editorial

Government's bark worse than its bite

Wednesday, October 02, 2019

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January 2, 2014, three-year-old Tafferell Taffe lost an eye after being mauled by a pit bull in St Ann.

January 4, 2014, a 59-year-old mechanic was hospitalised after being attacked by three pit bulls in St Mary.

February 2016, 56-year-old Mr Jerome Pow was reported killed after he was attacked by pit bulls in the vicinity of Hagley Park Road, St Andrew.

March 2, 2016, four-year-old Joshua Zhang, his two-year-old sister Kendra, and their mother Ms Aleiya Chin were attacked in the street by a neighbour's dogs in Manor Park, St Andrew. Little Joshua suffered serious injuries to his body, and underwent vocal cord surgery.

July last year, 66-year-old Mr Whittington 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. Mr Cole did not survive that vicious attack.

Just last month, a teacher was doing her routine evening walk in Cooper's Hill, St Andrew, when four dogs, among them pit bulls, attacked her, leaving her with extensive injuries to her body.

This list is by no means exhaustive, as this newspaper and other media houses have, over many years, reported attacks on people by vicious dogs.

And so, here we are again, debating this issue of the threat posed to human life by dangerous dogs whose owners, it appears, are either unable to control them or, worse, are negligent.

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

Minister Shaw said further that he would not rule out imposing a ban on the importation of these types of dogs and insisted that owners of these dangerous animals had a duty and a responsibility to be extra protective of the communities in which they live.

During that period after Mr Cole's death, we had a discussion with Ms Tammy Browne, 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 contribute to erratic behaviour that may result in injury or death to humans.

Joining the debate at the time, the Jamaica Veterinary Medical Association recommended the establishment of a mechanism for the regulation and certification of dog trainers.

All of those recommendations, we submit, are sound and worthy of being accepted, refined where necessary, and applied. Yet, a year later, all that has happened is just talk from the authorities, sparked this time by the attack on the teacher.

Last week, Mr Desmond McKenzie, the minister of local government and community development, told us that while Section 51 of the Local Governance Act 2016 gives municipal corporations the power to make regulations for the keeping of animals, including dogs, those regulations depend on the development of policies that will have to be approved by Cabinet.

Our suggestion to all the Government ministers who have expounded on this issue is to stop talking and act. And in so doing, ensure that the legislation also covers other dangerous animals which are being smuggled into the country.


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