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Do not abandon your pitbulls

 I write in response to an article which was published in the Daily Express on March 24 titled “Activists worried as 200 pitbulls abandoned—Fallout over Dog Control Act”. The writer stated that Sita Kuruvilla, president of the T&T Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (TTSPCA) and an Animal Welfare Network committee member, expressed concern that the Government should ensure reliable information about the Dog Control Act is provided to the public and owners or keepers of dogs. 

Ms Kuruvilla stated that 130 pitbulls were given to the TTPSCA shelter in Port of Spain by owners, and over 80 pitbulls were rescued after they were found roaming the streets, abandoned or dumped across the country. 

It is vital to outline how the Dog Control Act deals with the issue of the abandoning of Class A dogs which includes pitbulls. Section 15 of the act states that an owner or keeper of a Class A dog shall NOT abandon the dog. The provision creates a criminal offence for a person who contravenes this section whereby if found guilty the person is liable on summary conviction to a fine of $50,000 and to imprisonment for two years.

It is an offence to abandon a dangerous dog. We plead with all dog owners and keepers to refrain from abandoning  dangerous dogs. We hope that citizens would report any instances of suspected abandonment by persons in their neighbourhood to the police to allow a proper investigation into this criminal act to take place. The act seeks to prevent abandoning Class A dogs as these are the very breed of dogs that are capable of and have been responsible for vicious and deadly attacks. 

The Ministry of the Attorney General is in the process of preparing a Question & Answer advertisement to educate the public about the Dog Control Act.

Owners need to understand their responsibility under the act to register, licence, obtain a microchip and a metal label or badge, ensure the premises are secured by a fence or wall of prescribed dimensions, obtain insurance and exercise responsible dog ownership of Class A dogs. Advice will be forthcoming on the requirements of owners as soon as the regulations are in place.

The act enforces a criminal sanction on owners of Class A dogs where the dog injures a person whether in a public place or on private premises in circumstances without reasonable cause. The penalty is a fine of $100,000 and imprisonment for five years. Also it is a criminal offence, against the owner or keeper of a Class A dog, by a fine of $200,000 and imprisonment for 10 years where a Class A dog kills a person or causes the death of a person in circumstances without reasonable cause. The court may order the seizure and destruction of that dog where the attack was unprovoked or was encouraged or incited by another person to attack the person injured or killed thereby. 

In order to implement this act, there are provisions involving the Ministry of Local Government to collect dogs from persons who cannot comply with the provisions in the act. Section 8 of the act states that an owner of a Class A dog who cannot fulfil the requirements of this act shall notify the Ministry and transfer possession of the dog to the Ministry. Where the ministry has possession of a Class A dog, it can give the dog to a person who is able to care properly for the dog or give the dog to an establishment for the reception of stray dogs. Therefore there is an alternative for owners of Class A dogs who do NOT want to commit to the requirements of the act.

The act states that Class A dogs held for a period exceeding seven days shall be destroyed in a manner to cause as little pain as possible by a veterinary surgeon.

This section provides an alternative solution to owners or keepers of dangerous dogs who are unable to fulfill the requirements of the act. At the moment the Ministry of Local Government through the local corporations is in the process of increasing their capacity to provide the facilities and resources necessary to support this legislation.

The Dog Control Act seeks to walk the fine line that exists between the owners of fierce and dangerous dogs and the necessity to protect and safeguard innocent members of society from the threat that these very same fierce and dangerous dogs could pose if they are not kept in a responsible and sensible manner. The act seeks to implement internationally recognised measures for responsible dog ownership.

Vyana Sharma 

Attorney-at-law

Ministry of the Attorney General

 
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