Change dog law!

Expert suggests amendment to control breeding

BY KIMONE FRANCIS
Observer staff reporter
francisk@jamaicaobserver.com

Friday, August 17, 2018

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AT least one animal expert is calling for amendments to the more than century-old Dog Liability Act and Cruelty to Animals Act following the death an elderly man who was attacked by dogs in his Spanish Town, St Catherine, community, recently.

Tammy Browne, the director of non-profit organisation Montego Bay Animal Haven, wants amendments to the laws to prevent how dogs are bred and raised as she believes these contribute to erratic behaviour that may result in injury or death. Browne also wants the owners of dogs considered to be dangerous, such as pit bulls and Rottweilers, to be licensed.

The 1877 Dog Liability Act only addresses the civil liability of dog owners. According to the Act, “The owner of every dog shall be liable in damages for injury done to any person, or any cattle or sheep by his dog.”

Additionally, the Act says damages shall be recoverable in any court of competent jurisdiction by the person injured, or by the owner of such cattle or sheep killed or injured.

At the same time, Section 6 of the 1904 Cruelty to Animals Act says every person who in any manner encourages, aids, or assists at the fighting or baiting of animals is guilty of breaking the law.

Browne believes that this, too, accounts for dogs attacking unsuspecting victims.

On Tuesday, the Jamaica Observer reported the death of 66-year-old Whittington Cole, who was attacked by four dogs, believed to be pit bulls and Rottweilers, in Hampton Green on July 21.

Yesterday, the dog trainer said all dogs are sensitive and noted that violent behaviour in dogs is learnt.

“These dogs are terriers. What people don't understand is that pit bulls are very strong and their behaviours are usually learnt. They are often used as baits. They are trained to fight. It is not natural,” she said.

The woman, who currently supervises 140 dogs, described what happened to Cole as “tragic” and theorised that the dogs that attacked him might have also been cross-bred.

“If people are going to breed dogs they (Government) must look into it. They can't be breeding mother [with] son, and sister with brother. Like humans, dogs are similar and complications and unwanted traits will come about as a result. When you do this, these dogs are wired wrong. These owners must be given training. They are dealing with dangerous animals. These dogs that attacked [Cole] could have also been in heat,” Browne said, adding that owners must be held accountable for their dogs' actions.

She suggested that attacks can be prevented if there is regulation by Government.

“You don't apply for a gun without going to training. It's the same thing. I love my pit bull, but these animals are dangerous. You cannot allow an idiot, high on coke, to have these types of dogs. A pit bull can grow up to 60 pounds and Rottweilers can grow to between 120 and 140 [pounds]. When they bite your leg they can break it. Taking on a dog is a commitment and you have to amend the law so that people understand this,” she said adding, “the next attack could be your child”.

Whittington's death came 21 months after a mother and her two young children were attacked by dogs in an upper St Andrew community.

In February 2016, the Observer reported the death of 56-year-old Jerome Pow after he was attacked by pit bulls in the vicinity of Hagley Park Road.

In July 2011, 62-year-old Valerie Stephenson of St Catherine was killed by a pit bull as she walked in the community. Four months earlier, in Westmoreland, eight-month-old Oshawn Obermann was mauled by a pit bull owned by his parents. He survived with major injuries. In December 2012, two-year-old Ronica Gregory, of St Catherine, was killed by a pit bull and her sister seriously injured.

Also in that year, a woman and her 14-month-old son were attacked by a pit bull in Spanish Town.

On January 2, 2014, a three-year-old boy lost an eye after being mauled by a pit bull in St Ann, and on January 4, 2014, a 59-year-old mechanic was mauled by three pit bulls in St Mary.

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