Think again about the Dangerous Dogs Act
Trinidad and Tobago Canine Advocates (TTCA) is very pleased to note the recent announcement by the Attorney General concerning the Government's decision to revisit the Dangerous Dogs Act 2000, with a view to making it an effective tool in the improvement of public safety.
We believe that this is definitely a step in the right direction, and commend those involved for working with the various stakeholders.
TTCA stands ready at all times to offer its experience in redrafting any new legislation. Our sincere desire is to see this legislation completed and implemented in the shortest practical time frame.
We are of the firm view that any new or amended legislation should take into account the root causes of the issue and put in place workable, reasonable, fair and proportionate rules, regulations and penalties.
Supporting infrastructure should also be put in place; this would include a dedicated animal control and welfare unit, education programmes, temperament testing, regulated breeding and provision of proper boarding facilities.
All this can be funded directly from licensing and registration fees, which may total millions of dollars annually if all dogs are required to be registered.
There are certain aspects of the Attorney General's statement that we are particularly concerned with—for instance the issue of insurance for dog owners.
Although the TTCA does not disagree with the idea of insurance, we would suggest various options be considered which will enable and encourage compliance with many aspects of the legislation. One idea which the Government may want to consider would be group insurance which would come into effect on registration of the dog; a second option would be to set aside a portion of the registration and licensing fee as a "compensation fund".
Another aspect that causes us some discomfort is the prohibition on taking one's dog out in public. Part of the problem is caused because humans and dogs do not know how to interact with one another, and we firmly believe that widespread segregation of the species is going to further exacerbate the problem.
The Attorney General referred to dogs that are "traditionally" known to be dangerous, and this gives us much cause for concern as it indicates to us that the Government might not have yet fully comprehended the fact that a dog cannot be determined to be dangerous based on its breed, no more than a human can be determined to be dangerous because of his/her race.
Any law that would categorise dogs depending on their breeds would be considered breed-specific legislation.
Although we understand the attraction of finding such an easy fix for a multi-dimensional problem, we have to once again insist that such a law would be both unconstitutionally unjust to humans and a waste of time and money insofar as achieving its objective of securing public safety.
Trinidad and Tobago