Owners of deadly dogs face jail in T&T

(Trinidad Express) Owners of dangerous dogs, beware!

You are facing a ten-year jail sentence and a TT$200,000 fine if your dog kills someone. That is unless the person was about to commit a crime (such as illegally entering your property or do harm to you) and you have “reasonable cause” for “encouraging the dog to be aggressive or to attack” that person.

If your dogs injures someone, your situation is only slightly better: five years imprisonment and a TT$100,000 fine.

Under the Dog Control Bill, 2013, piloted by  Attorney General Anand Ramlogan in the House of Representatives yesterday, owners of dangerous dogs would also have to have an insurance policy of  TT$250,000 or higher.

They would also have to have a microchip installed in their dangerous dogs (so that if and when the dog attacks someone) the owner can be traced.

The bill, which seeks to provide for the control of all dogs, prevents any owner of any kind of dog from taking the animal to a restaurant, a place where food or beverages are sold or consumed by the public, commercial mall or shop.

Ramlogan said unlike the previous legislation—Dangerous Dogs bill which was passed but never proclaimed and implemented—the current Dog Control Bill espouses responsible ownership, rather than the elimination (via neutering or prohibition) of dangerous dogs.

He said the bill provides for the licensing of dangerous dogs, with owners paying a TT$1,000 licensing fee for a dangerous dog or TT$1,500 for more than one dangerous dog. And any person who keeps a dangerous dog which is not licensed would be fined TT$50,000.

The bill, which requires a special majority, repeals the Dangerous Dogs Act 2000. Dangerous dogs (defined in the bill as Class A) include pitbull terrier or any dog bred from the pitbull terrier; fila brasileiros or any dog bred from this type and Japanese Tosas, or any dog bred from this type.

However, the bill covers all other breeds of dogs defined as Class B but it does not provide for liability for death or injury caused by Class B dogs.

Ramlogan said all the evidence  showed that pitbulls were responsible for a disproportionate number of attacks on persons “with the most horrifying consequences”. He said the ministry spoke to owners, victims and police officers in preparing the legislation.

“I have been told by a police officer that himself and four other officers were trying to get one pitbull off a victim and try as they might when even the owner of the dog arrived, the dog would not let go. It is a Herculean task to pry a victim loose from a pitbull. In most cases the only way is to shoot the pitbull or cause severe injury or else the dog simply won’t let go,” he said.

“Some dogs have a demonstrated propensity to become violent, aggressive and attack,” he said.

Citing some of the instances of attacks which appeared in the media, the Attorney General said whenever a tragedy occurred nine out of ten times, there was an irresponsible owner who didn’t fence properly, forgot the gate open, didn’t have a strong enough leash or carried the dogs for a walk with no muzzle. “So the legislation focuses on responsible management, care and ownership of dangerous dogs and dogs in general,” he said.

Ramlogan said dogs occupied a unique part in the heart and minds of many persons. He said dogs were a companion to the elderly and single woman. She said one woman said she preferred a dog to having a boyfriend but  the strongest argument the owners had was the fact that in this time of high crime, the dog was a security measure. They contended that given the fact that they had invested in these dogs, if Government banned dangerous dogs it was tantamount to interfering with their right to own property.

Ramlogan said the dangerous dog must wear a collar with a metal label or badge which carries certain information. The owner must properly secure the premises, which must be inspected.

Ramlogan said a person who incites a dog to attack without cause is liable to a TT$25,000 fine in addition to other penalties already cited, if the person is injured or killed.

Under the bill, guide dogs (for the visually impaired) and dogs in the service of the State are excluded from all the provisions.

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