The Bill sought to amend some sections of the Dogs (Licensing and Control) Act, No 10 of 2007.
The purpose of the parent Bill is to make provision for regulating the keeping of dogs generally and the keeping of dogs which present a serious danger to the public and to provide for matters connected therewith. The amendments of 2011 reserve the commitment to wellbeing and protection of members of the public but tidied up some sections.
There appears to have been some misunderstanding regarding the Dangerous Dogs Act of 2007 and related Amendment of September 30, 2011. The misunderstanding surround the:
- fees for licensing
Purpose of Bill
Mr. Speaker, it is said that dogs are people’s best friends. Indeed they integrated in our lives and for many persons they offer companionship and security. None of this is objectionable.
Mr. Speaker, some have said that the spiraling incidence of crime in our Federation has created an immense feeling of insecurity in our people. Ours is a jurisdiction with the highest per capita murder rate in the world. And the recent arrest for kidnapping has brought an unwelcome development in criminality in the Federation which we dread and find most repulsive.
In acknowledging this reality, I hope we can disabuse ourselves of the view that government was unconcerned or insensitive to the security needs of people and that for many people dogs were providing their first defense/deterrent against crime. Let it be clear that the wellbeing and safety of our citizens have prompted this legislation.
There are many negative aspects to the presence of dogs in our society, resulting from a general culture of poor ownership practices, as has been the case elsewhere in our region. In the Caribbean, stray and roaming dogs have been implicated in diseases and parasite transmission, public nuisance through noise, and garbage dispersal and periodic injurious or fatal attacks on livestock. In moving the Bill I read a report on livestock fatalities submitted by our Chief Veterinary Officer. In other countries persons have been killed by dangerous dogs. I want to read an editorial comment from the Newsday of Trinidad and Tobago dated May 10, 2011, following the death of a forty six year old security guard. I do so in the hope that the public gets a better sense of the harm, pain and trauma which can result from dangerous dogs and lapses in the proper exercise in ownership.
Dr Wade Seukeran of Tenderheart Veterinary Service said that “Trinidad and Tobago is also experiencing an influx of owners who are incompetent, ignorant and irresponsible. Incompetent because they own a dog without having the finances, time or inclination to securely house, appropriately feed, provide proper veterinary care, adequately train and socialize, sufficiently exercise and care for the animal. Ignorant because they do not understand the needs (the five freedoms) of their pets and often do not choose to educate themselves. These are often persons who purchase a breed as a fashion statement without researching the origins, temperament or requirement of the breed.
Some owners are irresponsible because they do not neuter their pets, allow them to roam freely, bark at passersby, rip garbage bags, foul without poop-scooping and generally to become nuisances. Dogs are often “owned” by children and you see the dog walking the child. No one under eighteen years should “own” or walk a dog in public. Finally, there are those who are just plain cruel: they kennel or chain the dog for its entire life span, physically abuse, train and use their pets as weapons or abandon the animal because they no longer want it. The solution is three-fold: research, legislation and education. Baseline data is needed if we are to take any steps towards regulating the dog population in Trinidad and Tobago. Dogs per household need to be registered and epidemiological data regarding dog attacks and bites should be collated by the Central Statistical Office from sources such as hospitals, health centres, private doctors, police stations, veterinarians and even conscientious citizens”. We can well find kinder and simpler words than those of Dr Seukeran, but I think that the substance of his commentary resonates with some people.
2. Regarding the fees
Some have been rumoring that there is a $400 license fee. This is not the case. The information that I have on fees is as follows:
The situation now is that the fee for a dog license is EC $2.50 per year. In the region it ranges from as low as EC$15 to EC$150 depending on the classification of dogs in the country. The Amendments of 2011 introduces differing licensing fees but they are lower than those proposed in the 2007 Act.
Proposed License Fees in 2011 Amendment
1. Registration fee for intact dogs 25.00
2. Registration fee for altered dogs 15.00
3. Registration fee for intact dangerous dogs 100.00
4. Registration fee for altered dangerous dogs 50.00
5. License fee to operate a kennel 150.00
When we comparehe fees that are outlined in the Dogs (Licensing and Control) Act 2007 (No. 10 of 2007) p 16 in the First Schedule and those proposed in the Amendment of 2011 we note that there is no increase in dog fees contemplated or incorporated in the Amendment of 2011. Most fees are in fact reduced by 50-60% from those proposed in 2007. In fact we removed two licensing fees from the 2007 legislation, relating to subsequent registration for altered dogs and intact dogs these were enumerated 3 and 4 in the Dogs (Licensing and Control) Act, 2007-10.
What are dangerous dogs? Nine categories have been listed viz:
- American bulldog
- Dog Argentino
- Fila Brasileiro
- Japanese Tosa
- Pitbull Terrier
- Presso Canario
- Staffordshire Terrier
- Any cross breed of the foregoing eight
The provision for micro-chipping is not new. It is not a creature of the 2011 Amendment. Indeed this provision is found in the 2007 Act at section 5.
Amendment of section 4 of the Act:
- by replacing subsection (4) as follows
“ (4) Within sixty days of the coming into force of the Act, every person, being the owner of a dog, shall, upon payment of a prescribed fee, present the dog to an authorized officer for the purpose of having the dog inserted with a microchip or other appropriate device containing identification information on the dog and the owner of the dog.
- by inserting after the new subsection (4) the following new subsections
“ (5) Each microchip or other appropriate device shall bear a number corresponding with the number of the license to be worn by the dog.
Currently, Antigua and the Cayman Islands have updated dog legislation and they both have mandatory mirco-chipping. St Vincent and Barbados have submitted mandatory micro-chipping in their draft.
Our Chief Veterinary Officer has advised us that “micro-chipping is the best approach for permanent identification as it can only be removed surgically. Identification such as tags can be easily removed whether intentionally or unintentionally. They also tend to get lost or the markings get worn off.
If a dog escapes, or the dog does damage and is caught, the victim has a right to know who owns the dog in order to seek compensation and redress. Unfortunately, this is one of the benefits of micro-chipping that most dog owners do not like”.
Other benefits of micro-chipping include the ease of finding your dog if lost or if your dog was stolen.
With regards to the implementation of micro-chip, one has the option of going to a private Veterinarian where the cost would be more expensive if not subsidized, or utilizing the public service where the procedure would be conducted on a cost recovery basis.
A Comprehensive Approach WantedMr. Speaker, we do not yet have a perfect or comprehensive approach to deal with the problems of dangerous dogs. We are working towards that. We will do it consultatively involving breeders of these dogs, their vets, animal welfare organizations, trainers, and schools since children suffer most from dog bites (a survey in Trinidad in 2008 revealed that 28% of children were bitten at least once).
Mr. Speaker, the Amendments outlined on the Bill of 2011 are reasonable. They will not involve much cost for the regular dog owners.
May it please you.