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Vets back Deyalsingh

By Kim Boodram

THE Veterinary Association of Trinidad and Tobago has backed statements by Opposition MP Terrence Deyalsingh that animal doctors should not be expected to judge the genetic ‘breed’ of a dog by regular examination, as is stated in the amended Dangerous Dogs Bill.

The Bill was being debated in Parliament,  Tower D, International Waterfront Centre, Port of Spain, last Friday when Deyalsingh, quoting animal behaviourist Kristel-Marie Ramnath, was verbally attacked by Attorney General Anand Ramlogan.

Deyalsingh later objected to remarks by Ramlogan about a relationship between himself (Deyalsingh) and Ramnath.

Head of the Vet Association, Dr. Curtis Padilla, said yesterday Ramnath’s stance is being supported, as vets should not be expected to pronounce on the genetic make-up of a dog to determine whether it is considered a ‘dangerous dog’ according to the Bill.

“We have consulted with peers as far as in Australia and they are not obligated to do that,” Padilla said in a telephone interview.

He said such a verdict should not be done without deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) testing.

The AG’s comments that vets have been given some “concessions” in the new Bill refers to “small things”, Padilla said. While the veterinary community was grateful for the removal of a proposed $50,000 fine for any vet found to have certified a dangerous dog, Padilla said vets did not ask to be made the authority on certification in the first place.

“There was merit in Deyalsingh’s statement,” Padilla said.

He said local vets have continued to oppose the breed-specific nature of the Act and that in spite of extensive consultation—hard won after the initially-proposed Bill caused an uproar—the current incarnation still ignores much of the recommendations made by animal welfare persons and vets.

The 2013 Bill sought to regulate how certain breeds were kept.

 Listed as “Class A”, four breeds were specified—the Japanese Tosa, the Pitbull Terrier, the Fila Brasileiro  and the Dogo Argentino.

The 2014 Bill proposes 16 breeds to be regulated, inclusive of the initial four.

 Padilla said it was hugely disappointing the new Bill sticks to a breed-specific principle and not responsible ownership.

“If the Office of the Attorney General were to consider, sincerely, many of the proposals that our Association and many of the stakeholders have  proffered to him, he would have an excellent canine control law,” Padilla said.

“There is a lot of good in the Bill, true, but it can be a lot better.”

Padilla said one of the biggest challenges that will face the Bill is implementation, as calls for the setting up of a well-outfitted “canine authority” appear to have so far been ignored.

He said vets and other animal welfare groups and citizens were at this time trying to pool their resources to come up with empirical data on the local population, inclusive of how many dogs have been abandoned since the Bill began its journey.

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