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Not enough consultation on Dog Act

Letter to the Attorney General, the Honourable Senator Anand Ramlogan,
Dear Sir,
On Friday, February 7, 2014, the Honourable Attorney General presented the Amendments to the Dog Control Act 2013 in the House of Representatives.
During his introduction, the AG stated that the Act was developed in close consultation with stakeholders in the canine community of this country.
As a major stakeholder, with over 100 years of involvement in animal welfare, the Trinidad and Tobago Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (TTSPCA) is concerned that key recommendations submitted in the form of a position paper have not been considered and there has been little opportunity for discussion.
The TTSPCA maintains its position that the legislation would be of greater value to the citizens of the country in the long-term if it focussed on responsible ownership rather than on placing penalties and restrictions on a few breeds of dog.
In addition, the TTSPCA manages the only open shelter in Trinidad taking in unwanted, lost and abandoned animals, servicing the entire North and Central population including four regional corporations.
There has been no consultation with the society on the role of its shelters following proclamation of this legislation.
A major focus of concern of the TTSPCA is the lack of capability of the responsible government agency, the Ministry of Local Government and the implementing bodies, the regional corporations to effectively administer the legislation.
These agencies currently hold the mandate for dog control under the Dog’s Act of 1918. However, only eight of 14 corporations have “stray control units” consisting of one van with attached cage, few staff, most of whom lack any training in dog control, no equipment for capturing stray dogs and certainly not dogs deemed dangerous under the new Act.
There is currently only one government run pound situated in San Fernando.
It is understaffed, overcrowded, and without a water supply and there are no provisions for feeding or adequate care of the animals.
The facility has eight kennels and takes in an average of 50 dogs a week from four corporations.
The facility is completely inadequate for the housing/holding of “dangerous dogs”.
There are no other government impoundment facilities for dogs in Trinidad and none in Tobago, and a long history of cruel and inhumane treatment of animals in government-run pound facilities.
Following the presentation of the Dog Control Bill in 2012 and the passage of the Act in 2013, the TTSPCA has been inundated with calls regarding the relinquishment of owned pitbulls and reports of abandoned and stray pitbulls.
In 2013, 129 pitbulls were given up to the north shelter and the society rescued a further 28 from the streets.
The Animal Welfare Network (AWN) was involved in the rescue of a further 76 roaming/abandoned pitbulls.
In many cases people have called on NGOs for assistance failing any response from local government and the police.
In some cases, dogs have been chopped or otherwise wounded when they have wandered onto properties or into communities.
We wish to again remind the AG’s office of our key recommendations for effective implementation of this legislation.
Formation of an expert grouping/ agency/ authority to oversee the implementation of dog control legislation and the development of a plan for humane dog population control.
Amendments to existing outdated and inadequate laws on animal cruelty, and a revision of the Pounds Act to cover capture methods, housing and euthanasia.
These amendments should ensure that any efforts to construct and manage new facilities or to farm out these responsibilities to private agencies are regulated to ensure basic humane care.
Implementation of the provisions of the Act is not feasible without the supporting infrastructure.
The task of inspection, handling and impounding of unwanted or non-compliant cases is the role of local government agencies which do not have staff adequately trained or outfitted to carry out these tasks.
We reiterate our recommendation that posts of dog control officer be assigned to each corporation and they be provided the requisite training and equipment to effectively carry out their task.
Without further care given to the details of implementation of this legislation we expect to see even more abandonment of “dangerous dogs” and an increase in incidents of animal cruelty as fearful communities defend themselves.
Sita Kuruvilla
President, T&TSPCA
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