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Helpless before raging pitbulls

If Trinidad and Tobago has an equivalent to the assault weapons now inflaming public discourse in the United States, it is the unregulated four-legged killing machines which continually mangle, disfigure, and even kill people who are merely going about their everyday business.

This comparison arises from news stories this week of attacks by pitbull dogs on two defenceless women, both of whom in consequence needed hospital care, including surgery. As happened after previous occasions of pitbull attacks, headlines stir short-lived alarm, but never appear to goad relevant authorities, or interest groups, into urgent action. In May last year, 46-year-old Denise Rackal, a security guard and mother of two, was killed by seven pitbulls as she was on her way to work at 6 a.m. It was not the first time the grown dogs had threatened persons in the neighbourhood but, if any reports were made, no action was taken.

Back then, Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar gave the assurance that Attorney General Anand Ramlogan was reviewing the Dangerous Dogs Act 2000 with a view to creating a more effective piece of legislation. Since then, Mr Ramlogan has expended much time and energy on other matters, but no progress has apparently been made in amending this relatively simple law. In light of this inaction, the only question is whether this is mere incompetence or if pitbull owners are a special breed whom politicians prefer to placate.

After all, just like owners of assault weapons, pitbull owners can depend on their defenders who find fault in legislation which is seen as a crackdown on the killer breed. In the wake of the most recent attacks, the predictable and hollow appeal went out to owners from the T&T Canine Advocates, urging that lethal dogs be trained, socialised and secured. Karen Lara, 22, who suffered facial lacerations and a hairline skull fracture after having been set upon by two pitbulls, called on owners to be more responsible. But why should this minority of dog-owners, most of whom clearly lack any sense of responsibility, be allowed to put the vast majority of citizens at risk of limb and life?

Between attempts at moral suasion and the legislative foot-dragging, a general sense of nothing-doing prevails, even as dangerous dogs proliferate. To be sure, one civic action group is seeking to build a database, presumably to galvanise corrective action against this menace. But how useful such information will be remains to be seen—after all, naming did not lead to shaming of the owners of pitbulls which were involved in previous attacks.

For now, we can only ask how many more helpless humans must die before the Government takes action on this issue?

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