Control your dogs!


Control your dogs!

Senator calls for criminal prosecution against owners of dogs when people are attacked

Senior staff reporter

Saturday, November 09, 2019

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SENATOR Kerensia Morrison says 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.

Introducing a motion at yesterday's sitting of the Upper House, the Government senator said the provisions of the 1877 Dogs (Liability for Injuries By) Act have proven insufficient to encourage vigilance and discourage neglect.

She said consideration should also 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.

Morrison pointed to continued attacks on people despite years of public outcry, with such attacks sometimes resulting in serious injury. With the cost of recovering damages proving prohibitive for some victims, greater vigilance for those with responsibility for dogs may reduce the incidence of such attacks, Senator Morrison said in a resolution.

In recent years, there have been increasing reports of attacks on people by dogs, and increasing outcry for successive governments to intervene with regulations governing the ownership of these animals.

Just days ago, in a Jamaica Observer interview, Wesley Daley, who said he was pounced on and seriously injured by a cross-breed German shepherd dog, pleaded with the Government to amend the archaic legislation.

Daley, who was attacked last January and later diagnosed with peripheral neuropathy, is also urging the Government to impose stiffer penalties on owners of dogs that attack people.

According to the 30-year-old dog bite victim, the attack has cost him over half a million dollars in medical bills. Daley joins a line of people who have either been injured or killed in dog attacks over the past several years, including at least one child and a senior citizen. The attacks, while eliciting public outrage and calls from animal experts and others for the legislation to be changed, had not before influenced a move for legislative changes.

Following the death of senior citizen Whittington Cole in July last year, the Jamaica Veterinary Medical Association (JVMA) lamented that from as far back as 2004, when it became clear that dogs such as American pitbull terriers were being smuggled into the island, circumventing the legal importation process, the organisation had warned of the possible consequences, given the lack of sufficient legislation and public practice with regard to responsible dog ownership.

The JVMA pinpointed the issue of dog training where, in certain instances, there are levels of abuse used to increase aggression, which it said is contrary to the norms of protection training. “There needs to be a mechanism for the regulation and certification of trainers. There are other abusive practices such as the cutting off of ears and tails to supposedly enhance the “look” – even in mixed breeds – traumatising the animals, making them more prone to react inappropriately,” the association said.

The JVMA insisted that outdated animal welfare legislation must make way for modern legislation that meets international standards and guidelines, for dog population control for the protection of people and animals.

The Dogs (Liability for Injuries By) Act makes the owner of a dog liable for injury to any person, or animal in a court of law.

The three-clause, one-page Act has never been amended.

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