The Dogs Act long in coming but no more delays, please

Editorial

The Dogs Act long in coming but no more delays, please

Monday, July 27, 2020

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It has taken a mighty long time, but better late than never.

This newspaper is very pleased that the Jamaican Government has finally made the first major step towards holding accountable those whose dogs attack, hurt, and even kill innocent people.

News reports last week said the Minister of Justice Mr Delroy Chuck had tabled a Bill in the House of Representatives seeking to hold dog owners liable for dog attacks.

Over a period of many years, news outlets including this newspaper have reported horrific stories about dogs attacking people.

Dog owners have on occasion appeared to consider themselves blameless.

The article in this newspaper published last Wednesday says the Bill, “titled An Act to Repeal the Dogs (Liability for Injuries by) Act, or the Dogs (Liability for Attacks) Act, 2020, proposes that in circumstances where individuals are attacked by dogs outside the premises where they are kept, owners be fined $500,000 or receive a prison term not exceeding six months, and up to $3 million or 15 years in prison if the attack results in death and the owner is present and fails to restrain the animal or assist the individual mauled by the dog”.

We are told that the proposed legislation “imposes a statutory duty on the owner of a dog (defined to include any person responsible for a dog) to exercise management and control of the dog to ensure that the dog does not cause injury to an individual in a public place; provides for (i) civil liability in respect of injury caused by a dog; and (ii) criminal liability where an individual is attacked by a dog, along with the appropriate penalties therefore; and provides for a procedure for reporting attacks by dogs and empowering constables to investigate and, in appropriate circumstances, to issue a warning instead of proceeding to criminal charge”.

The Parliament must not drag its feet on this one. Also, the news media and the various activist groups must play their watchdog roles so that legislation comes to pass in a timely fashion.

That's the only way to ensure that deaths following dog attacks, of those such as Mr Whittington Cole in 2018, Mr Jerome Pow in 2014, and Ms Valerie Stephenson in 2011, will not have happened in vain.

In addition, there are those who have suffered life changing injuries, physically and psychologically, such as Master Tafferell Taffe, who we were told in a 2018 story written by Miss Kimone Francis, was mauled by a pit bull in 2014 when he was just three years old.

Indeed, while considering the proposed legislation, parliamentarians and the wider population should not shy away from debating whether dog breeds such as pit bulls — which have been involved in far too many vicious attacks for comfort — should be banned.

Also, it seems to us ways must be found, to remove not just dogs, but an array of domestic animals roaming the nation's roadways and posing serious risks to motorists, pedestrians and others.

Fixing such seemingly small things are crucial in the push to Jamaica becoming an orderly society... some day.


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