30 Apr 2009

Living to bite another day

THE Member of Parliament for Pointe-a-Pierre went almost immediately to visit the little girl who was almost mauled to death by a mad pitbull in Marabella last weekend. It was a good move as it appeared. Compared with the neglect of the family in which a mother and two young sons were butchered by the boys' deranged father in the shack they called home, on a hill in the Heights of Guanapo just before Easter, it was exemplary.

But then Christine Kangaloo had promised the people of her constituency she would be a better representative to them than anybody who had won their franchise in the past. She appears to mean business. Going to see the child, she wished for her a speedy recovery and she presented her with a toy.

Ms Kangaloo is an attorney. Whatever her thoughts on the incident with the pitbull itself, she kept to herself. She didn't share it with the girl's mother the day she visited at the nursing home. And after two days, her schedule was preventing her yesterday from responding to my own request for same.

She probably may not have known that this mad-dog had unleashed itself on more than one occasion in the past and killed other dogs in its neighbourhood. She probably didn't know either that the father of the lucky little girl had complained to the owner on several occasions in the past, about the danger the animal posed to the dozen or more little children using the yard in which it was being kept. There are senior citizens also who are potential victims, forgetting the scores of able-bodied men and woman, such as the parents of the girl.

What the lady Minister of Science, Technology and Tertiary Education may well know, however, is that attempts had been made to protect the public from incidents such as this from happening again. Several such incidents had occurred in the past, more than one of them resulting in death to the victims.

She would know, for example, that a Dangerous Dogs Bill was passed in 2000, but that it remains off the books, primarily because the Government of which she is a member and sometime acting Attorney General has decided that it is too draconian.

If so be the case, however, has the Attorney General taken any steps to fix that, and to have an acceptable one in place, providing that this would serve as a deterrent to the kind of the likelihood of last week's act of negligence? In fact is it not an act of defiance on the part of the owner against the widespread public acceptance that people ought to be protected against such attacks?

The Attorney General also has not been permitted by her schedule to respond just yet to a query about her thoughts on the matter, in light of the incident, and on the status of the Bill.

When the story was first carried in last Saturday's newspapers, the Express reported that Marabella police were conducting inquiries. They had interviewed the owner of the dog. As at yesterday's reckoning, the little girl's father had heard nothing more from the investigating officer. What he knows is that at the beginning of the inquiry a man other than the one on whose premises the dog was being kept came forward to claim ownership.

Given what he says he knows about the relations between this man and the police he holds out little hope this investigation would amount to anything. The dog has been removed from its previous place of abode, and has gone into hiding, he has reported. On the day of the incident the man who was keeping the dog, if in fact he turns out not to have been the owner, had promised to at least meet the little girl's medical expenses. Again, up to yesterday, her mother had heard nothing from him. He is her nephew, but there is bad blood between himself and the girl's father who fears that could complicate matters. Nevertheless they were planning an approach yesterday.

The distraught father was also making arrangements to get a brain scan done on his three-year-old daughter, for another examination by an ENT specialist, a third by an eye doctor. All of this occasioned by the nature of the injuries the child suffered in this near-death experience. The brain scan alone would cost $1,500 he was told.

Feeling already that he may have to go to court to get what he considers justice in this matter, he has contacted a lawyer. Sizing up the situation, the lawyer has advised him that this may be pointless, if the man with the dog turns out unable to pay whatever the court may seek to impose. He hadn't even considered either how long it would take before the matter reached that stage.

A law which was passed in the country's parliament nine years ago, to deal with a situation which presented itself to national consciousness at the time, remains without effect because a successor administration deems it too draconian. It would have made provision for proper keeping of such deadly four-legged weapons away from the innocent public. It would have created a progression in which such breeds would have been outlawed in this jurisdiction altogether.

Nothing is known to exist at the moment to hold the man responsible for last Friday's incident accountable. The dog also lives to bite another day.

Andy Johnson

I found this worthy of a reprint, especially the highlighted paragraph.