Gov't repeats promise of more teeth for dog laws

Gov't repeats promise of more teeth for dog laws

BY ARTHUR HALL
Editor-at-Large
halla@jamaicaobserver.com

Thursday, January 16, 2020

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For the second time in four months the Government has announced plans to put more teeth in the law governing attacks by dogs.

Minister with responsibility for education, youth and information Karl Samuda told a media briefing at Jamaica House yesterday that Cabinet has given approval for a proposed reform of the more than century-old Dogs (Liability for Injuries By) Act.

According to Samuda, the Act is to be repealed and replaced with a new law that will provide for criminal and civil liability for the owner of a dog that attacks, injures and, or, causes the death of a person.

“This is something that has affected us in the Ministry of Education very directly, because you will recall that one of our teachers from St Richard's Primary was attacked very severely and, in fact, I am sure that she is going to bear the effects of that attack for the rest of her life,” said Samuda, in reference to a grade six teacher who was mauled by four pit bulls in Coopers Hill, St Andrew, while exercising last September.

“People must be held accountable for the management and control of their animals, and it cannot be that persons' lives are exposed by careless owners of pets,” added Samuda.

He said the Cabinet has given approval for drafting instructions to be sent to the chief parliamentary counsel.

Samuda's comments came less than four months after Minister of Justice Delroy Chuck made a similar commitment to the nation.

Speaking at a quarterly press briefing on September 26, days after the attack on the teacher, Chuck noted that the existing law only provides for compensation when a person is attacked or injured by dogs, as there was no provision for criminal action.

Chuck told Jamaicans then that his ministry's Legal Reform Department had put forward proposals to amend the law and that those amendments would be discussed at Cabinet and later in Parliament, so that stakeholders could have an input.

“We are going to repeal that law and put in place the Dogs Liability of Owners Act, so the burden will be on owners to ensure that their dogs are kept under control. If the dogs are not kept under control and they should escape from the yard/leash and injure persons, then there will be the possibility of criminal liability,” said Chuck.

He declared that under the updated legislation people could either be fined or imprisoned dependent on recklessness or negligence.

“We have to ensure that owners of dogs control their dogs. Far too many children and persons have been victims of the ferocious attack of many dogs,” added Chuck.

At that time Chuck further promised that other stakeholders, including the Ministry of Local Government and Community Development and the Ministry of Industry, Commerce, Agriculture and Fisheries, would play a part in updating the legislation.


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