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(JAMAICA OBSERVER) – Audley Shaw yesterday put owners of “dangerous dogs” on notice, signalling that the Government is moving to possibly ban them, following the death of a senior citizen in Spanish Town, St Catherine last month.
In fact, Shaw, the minister of industry, commerce, agriculture and fisheries who spoke to the Jamaica Observer in an exclusive interview, said already, he has ordered a review of the century-old Dog Liability and Cruelty to Animals acts.
“I think this whole industry must be better managed and better regulated. So I am expecting a report on my desk within a week. The reason I say it is expected within a week is that there was work being done, but given the circumstances I’ve asked that it be accelerated,” Shaw said.
Shaw’s response was triggered by last week Tuesday’s Jamaica Observer front-page story on the death of 66-year-old Whittington Cole who was attacked by four dogs in Hampton Green on July 21.
Cole was walking in the community about 12:45 am when he was attacked at the intersection of Grant’s Crescent and Locksley Avenue by dogs believed to be pit bulls and rottweilers.
Yesterday, Shaw expressed condolences to the family of Cole, who was severely bitten, including on his right arm, rupturing the main artery and causing him to lose blood rapidly. He died during surgery.
“I offer my most sincere and profound condolences. We don’t want his death to be in vain. Every owner of these dangerous animals must understand that they have a duty and a responsibility to be extra protective of the community in which they live. I’m not talking about protective of their dogs. I’m talking about protective of their communities, including our little children, and people generally.
“I’m serving warning on everybody that we’re looking at a very serious regime. Other countries have banned certain animals and quite frankly, I’m not ruling that out from Jamaica,” Shaw told the Observer.
On Sunday, the Jamaica Veterinary Medical Association (JVMA) recommended the establishment of a mechanism for the regulation and certification of dog trainers.
The JVMA also said the country needs to redouble its efforts at reviewing outdated acts and creating modern animal welfare legislation that meets international standards and guidelines for public education and dog population control, for the protection of both people and animals.
The JVMA’s call came after Tammy Browne, the director of non-profit organisation Montego Bay Animal Haven, called for amendments to current laws to prevent how dogs are bred and raised as she believes these contribute to erratic behaviour that may result in injury or death.
Browne, who spoke to the Observer last Thursday, also said the owners of dogs considered to be dangerous, such as pit bulls and rottweilers, should be licensed.
Yesterday, Opposition spokesman on agriculture Dr Fenton Ferguson said he was in support of calls for amendments to the laws.
“I support calls coming from the experts to amend legislation …While I was minister of health we were looking at amendments to the laws that would have had an impact on owners of these dogs and the conditions under which they are allowed to enter the country. There have been a number of incidents inclusive of babies who have been badly injured by these dogs. There must be legislation to protect the citizens of our country,” he said.
Ferguson added that while he notes the crime level in the country, which has resulted in citizens wanting to secure themselves, there must be responsibility on the part of owners of these dogs to ensure all is done to protect innocent people.
“I think it is long overdue. My view is that we must do the necessary consultations. It’s not that you are just going to get up and come with anything that’s going to be draconian. The necessary consultations must be done, but it is our responsibility to change laws or amend laws where we find them inadequate to respond to issues that keep recurring year in, year out,” said Ferguson.
“We have to take action; it’s not a one-off incident. So I’m fully behind a review with the broadest consultation, but definitely with intent to upgrade these laws which I would at this time say are inadequate to deal with the realities of today,” he added.
Cole’s death came 21 months after a mother and her two young children were attacked by dogs in an upper St Andrew community.
In February 2016, the Observer reported the death of 56-year-old Jerome Pow after he was attacked by pit bulls in the vicinity of Hagley Park Road.
In July 2011, 62-year-old Valerie Stephenson of St Catherine was killed by a pit bull as she walked in the community. Four months earlier, in Westmoreland, eight-month-old Oshawn Obermann was mauled by a pit bull owned by his parents. He survived with major injuries. In December 2012, two-year-old Ronica Gregory, of St Catherine, was killed by a pit bull and her sister seriously injured.
Also in that year, a woman and her 14-month-old son were attacked by a pit bull in Spanish Town.
On January 2, 2014, a three-year-old boy lost an eye after being mauled by a pit bull in St Ann, and on January 4, 2014, a 59-year-old mechanic was mauled by three pit bulls in St Mary.
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