By Simon Jones, Bermuda Sun
The underground breeding of illegal dogs is fuelling a dramatic rise in the number of serious dog attacks.
The warning comes as the Department of Environmental Protection announced a dog amnesty last week to tackle the growing problem.
Animal wardens say they have dealt with a string of attacks where humans as well as animals have been savaged by restricted dogs.
They believe there are hundreds of restricted dogs across the island and have dealt with attempts to smuggle banned breeds into Bermuda under the pretense they were different breeds of dog.
Head animal warden Jeffrey Benevides told the Bermuda Sun: “Often these dogs are taken from their mothers at a very young age — says just three or four weeks — and do not have a chance to be socialized properly.
“They are being kept in hiding and being walked at 12am to avoid detection.
“I have heard of dogs changing hands and being sold for thousands of dollars.
“We believe ninety per cent of the illegal breeding of restricted breeds involves people who are already involved in criminal activity.
“There is a definite link between the two activities.”
The amnesty, which runs from July 18 to August 31, gives owners of restricted breeds the chance to licence their dogs under the proviso they are spayed and neutered so they can not reproduce.
After the end of the amnesty unlicensed dogs could be seized and destroyed while their owners could be prosecuted.
Mr Benevides said: “People stand to either have their dogs seized or destroyed if they do not abide by these rules.
“We do not enjoy taking dogs from people’s homes but this is what will happen.”
Director of Environmental Protection Dr. Frederick Ming told the Bermuda Sun the purpose of the amnesty
He said: “We are not saying that all restricted breeds in Bermuda are dangerous.
“But we can not ignore the connection between restricted breeds and the rise in dog attacks
“It is a trend we are not happy about. Something has happened out there and we are trying to do something about it.
“There is an underground market in the breeding and trading of certain restricted breeds.
“Dogs are being illegally bought and sold. The biggest problem we have us with the pit bull.”
Dr Ming said the amnesty also aimed to encourage dog owners with pets not in the restricted category to ensure they were properly licensed.
He revealed that there were around 1,000 unlicensed dogs in Bermuda at present.
He added: “Whether it is a small family dog or a restricted breed any dog that we come across that is no licensed can be seized and the owner can be prosecuted.
“If it is a restricted dog the probability of it being put down is great.
“We feel there may be as many as 1,000 unlicensed dogs in Bermuda which represents a significant income to government.
“The amnesty is a way of getting this situation under control. It is also the opportunity for good dog owners to avoid a lot of expense.”
Members of the public with questions or concerns regarding the amnesty can contact the Department of Environmental Protection on 236-4201.