After languishing on the books for 12 years since its passage by the Parliament in June 2000, the Dangerous Dogs Act is to be proclaimed on August 1, 2012.
A release from the Ministry of the Attorney General stated yesterday that Cabinet at its meeting last Thursday agreed "that the Act, by Proclamation of the President, would come into force on 1 August, 2012.
"The Government is of the view that the proclamation of the Act is critical because of the great harm and injury being caused daily to law-abiding citizens when these dogs are not properly secured and controlled."
The Act imposes certain obligations on the owners or keepers of dangerous dogs such. For instance, the owner of every dangerous dog must have insurance in the sum of at least $250,000 for each dog.
The purpose of the Act is to prohibit persons from importing and breeding dangerous dogs, to impose other restrictions in respect of dangerous dogs, to regulate the manner in which dangerous dogs are kept by their owner or keeper, and to make further provision to ensure than such dogs are kept under proper control so as to ensure public safety.
The Act categorises as dangerous dogs:
1) pitbull terrier or any dog bred from a pitbull terrier
2) a Fila Brasileiro or any dog bred from a Fila Brasileiro
3) a Japanese Tosa or any dog bred from a Japanese Tosa.
However, under the Act the Minister of Local Government is given the power to declare any other type of dog as a dangerous dog.
Within three months of the Act coming into force a person who owns a dangerous dog must have it spayed or neutered by a veterinary surgeon, register it with the Ministry of Local Government; and apply for and get an annual license from the Municipal Corporation in the area where he lives.
Failure to acquire the $500 licence means that the person has committed the summary offence of keeping or owning an unlicensed dangerous dog, for which there is a penalty of a $50,000 fine and imprisonment for one year. The Act also bans the importation, breeding or sale of a dangerous dog and also prohibits a person under 18 from owning a dangerous dog. If a person cannot comply with any of the provisions of the Act, he/she must give his/her dangerous dog to the Ministry of Local Government which would then destroy it.
Once a dangerous dog escapes from any premises, the owner of the dog is liable for any injury or damage caused by the dog. The owner must ensure that the premises on which the dog is kept is secured by a fence or wall of a suitable height and constructed and maintained so as to prevent the dog from escaping.
The owner also must have a notice properly displayed that there is a dangerous dog on his premises.
The release stated that regulations would soon be prepared to give effect to the purpose of the Act. "The Government has noted with great concern the recent and growing attacks on law-abiding citizens by pitbulls. The facts show that often these dangerous dogs are not properly trained or secured. In recent times, dangerous dogs have been allowed to escape onto the road and attack persons, causing severe injuries and, in some cases, death," the release added.
Last April four-year-old Ezekiel Renne-Cambridge who was mauled by two German Shepherd dogs (not defined as dangerous dogs) ended up in Intensive Care Unit of the San Fernando Hospital where he was treated and discharged.