Vets want dog trainers certified, regulated

Monday, August 20, 2018

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The Jamaica Veterinary Medical Association (JVMA) is recommending the establishment of a mechanism for the regulation and certification of dog trainers.

At the same time, the JVMA says the country needs to redouble its efforts at reviewing outdated Acts and creating modern animal welfare legislation that meets international standards and guidelines for public education and dog population control, for the protection of both people and animals.

The veterinarians' calls come amidst debate triggered by the Jamaica Observer's front page lead story last Tuesday on 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.

Cole was walking in the community about 12:45 am when he was attacked at the intersection of Grant's Crescent and Locksley Avenue.

Yesterday the JVMA expressed horror at yet another report of an attack by free-roaming dogs.

“This comes against the backdrop of continued lax attention to the issues of responsible dog ownership and dog population control in Jamaica. Our hearts go out to the family and all those affected by similar tragedies over the years,” the JVMA said.

“The Jamaica Observer in its editorial of August 15 is correct. Incidents occur, we talk and call for this and that, time passes, the impetus to get things done fades, and we return to business as usual. This cannot continue,” the veterinarians said.

“From as far back as 2004, when it became clear that dogs such as American Pit Bull Terriers were being smuggled into the island, circumventing the legal importation process, the JVMA warned of the possible consequences, given the lack of sufficient legislation and public practice with regard to responsible dog ownership as well as the general view of many Jamaicans that their dogs must be 'bad' for security purposes,” the JVMA added.

The association said that in 2009-10 it participated in a committee, established by the minister of agriculture, which examined the broad issue of the movement of companion animals into and out of Jamaica, which included the issue of dangerous dogs.

“In its final report, recommendations were made with regard to new and updated legislation, the promotion of responsible dog ownership, a national effort at dog population control through spay-neuter, and the regulation of dog trainers. It was only in September 2017 that the regulations regarding the importation of dogs and cats were finally changed in keeping with the recommendations, and we still await changes in regard to the other matters stated,” the JVMA said.

The vets said that dog behaviour is such that they, particularly non-neutered males, will roam, get into fights, prey upon livestock and, on occasion, attack people. “This can be any breed, including our famous mongrels, and the concern regarding the larger, more powerful animals which can inflict greater injury, while valid, tends to obscure the greater picture,” the vets argued.

Pointing to the issue of dog training, which they insisted was also of great importance, the JVMA said that there are many videos posted online showing some level of abusive “training” to increase aggression, which run completely contrary to the norms of protection training.

“There needs to be a mechanism for the regulation and certification of trainers,” the association said, adding that there are other abusive practices such as the removal of ears and tails to supposedly enhance the “look” — even in mixed breeds. But that, the vets pointed out, traumatises the animals, making them more prone to react inappropriately.

Last Friday animal expert Tammy Browne called for amendments to the more than century-old Dog Liability Act and Cruelty to Animals Act to address how dogs are bred and raised, as she believes these contribute to erratic behaviour that may result in injury or death.

Browne, the director of non-profit organisation Montego Bay Animal Haven, also wants the owners of dogs considered to be dangerous, such as pit bulls and Rottweilers, to be licensed.

Yesterday the JVMA said that the Spay-Neuter Jamaica programme being run by the Jamaica Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (JSPCA) and other entities needs to be increased and sustained nationally. As such, the JVMA is in the process of developing guidelines for such activities.

“We urge pet owners to have their dogs (and cats) spayed or neutered so as to help reduce the population of free-roaming animals. Contact can be made with your local veterinarian or the JSPCA to get more information on having this procedure done,” the veterinarians association said.

“We also urge persons to engage their community and local government representatives to discuss support, for spay/neuter programmes by Spay-Neuter Jamaica or local veterinarians within your communities. This requires much funding support as veterinarians cannot be expected to continuously provide such services at little or no cost. These are small but significant ways persons can help to tackle the problem and make communities safer for both humans and livestock, while pushing for more action by the Government,” the association said.

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