By N.H.Cole Simons JP MP, from Bernews
It is with great interest that Bermuda sits here today and watches its Government implement a six month amnesty on illegally held dogs on the Island. The amnesty is suppose to regularize those illegally bred animals already in Bermuda. It also tries to halt illegal breeding and re-educate the public on dog legislation. In addition, it puts that public on notice that in the future, illegally held and illegally bred dogs will be seized.
As far as I am concerned, the amnesty alone will not solve Bermuda dog control challenges. We in the One Bermuda Alliance would take a more detailed approach in addressing these challenges. We would have introduced the amnesty along with legislation, and regulations which will punish the deed and not the breed. In my estimation, the time is ripe for the introduction of non- breed specific legislation which is which is fair to both the dog owners, and to those people who regard certain dogs as a threat to the community.
Bermuda must also enhance its dog control laws for by increasing the penalties for owning a dog which causes serious injury. In addition, we can seriously increase the penalties to a term of imprisonment, and /or an increased fine of around $20k for irresponsible and dangerous behavior.
May I also suggest that Minister Roban work more closely with Bermuda’s All Breed Club and the Dog Training Club. He should also closely review and give serious consideration to recommendations found in the Government sanctioned 2001 Dog Committee Report, which recommends that and I quote ‘Government should not ban specific breeds, but punish the owners and not the breed”.
The 2001 Dog report went on to state that a September 2000 issue of the Journal of American Veterinary Medical Association indicated that over the past 20 years in the United States at least 25 breeds of dogs have been involved in 238 fatalities. The highest rate of death, 58% were by dogs that were unrestrained but were on their owner’s property. These dogs were not restricted to pit bulls and the like. They included Dachshunds, , and Labrador Retrievers. So the principle of breed specific regulations is totally flawed and without merit.
In summary, I believe that the Minister must re examine Bermuda’s Dangerous Dog Control legislation and regulations. Our laws could run parallel to the laws supported by the American Kennel Club which supports reasonable, enforceable, nondiscriminatory laws which govern the ownership of dogs.
Our laws must establish a fair process by which dogs are identified as dangerous based on stated and measurable actions. Our laws should include clearly defined enforcement of generic, non- breed specific dangerous dog laws, with emphasis on chronically irresponsible owners. We must enhance and enforce our leash laws and provide further support to Bermuda’ neutering campaign.
There should also be school based programs, and adult education programs that teach pet selection strategies, pet care, responsibility and bite prevention.
In the end, Bermuda’s Dog Control Initiatives must be fair to the dog, the dog owners and those that regard certain dogs as a threat. We must balance the health, safety, and welfare needs of our people and the animals of Bermuda.