24 Apr 2012

Dangerous dogs? Or dangerous owners?

The last time I read the Dangerous Dogs Act 2000 was a long time ago… too far back to recall the details. Given all the furore over the proclamation to come (August 1, 2012), I thought it is high time we revisit this piece of legislation. It is published below in its entirety.

a2000-32

Having read this Act, I now find myself baffled. Many dog owners and dog lovers are reported by daily newspapers (possibly radio – today 106.5 FM is carrying a live call in segment on the 6 Am to Noon (Trinidad Time) program) as being ‘flawed’.

I notice however, not one person so far has actually pointed out a flaw. Instead, they point to the fact that the DDA (UK) is repealed. That is a non-issue. The UK currently, as far as I am aware,  has not repealed its DDA (1991) or the Amended 1997 Act. After consultation, “some 20 different bodies, including the National Dog Warden Association, the Police Federation, the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons, the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, the Communication Workers Union and Battersea Dogs and Cats Home have now reached a level of agreement about what might be effective.”

The reaction of Rockians will be one of shock therefore, to learn that the recommended changes is not merely to remove the 4 main listed breeds of dogs, but to be more encompassing to include any and all dogs that are deemed dangerous. So far from citing the UK DDA and its so-called faults, they should beware lest the T&T Government move into a Dog Control Act and put more responsibility on owners and handlers. At the moment, owners of the three listed breeds can claim to be treated with a large measure of leniency.

After August 1, when the DDA (Trinidad) comes into effect, dog owners will have to do the following:

  1. Have a licensed veterinary surgeon (vet) certify on a properly scheduled form, what type of dog they have.
  2. Have their premises inspected and approved on a certificate by a duly authorised person with respect to the safety of both animal and persons.
  3. Have insurance per dog to the sum of $250,000.00.
  4. The owner of any dog listed is to provide to an injured party, within 14 days of a request, the name of his insurers so they may be joined as co-defendants. Insurers have 28 days after being served to show cause why they may not be named.
  5. Have each dog spayed or neutered.
  6. Have each dog licensed with the local Authority for the area of residence. Should the owner move, the licence must be transferred tot he appropriate Authority.
  7. The dog must wear a collar with the licence number attached (it is an offence to remove or deface the number) and also attached to the pinna of the ear of the animal.
  8. The dog must be leashed and muzzled when in public. No one under 18 years is allowed to handle a listed dog in public, and must be capable of handling the dog.
  9. It is an offence for anyone under 18 years to be the owner of a listed dog, and also the ownership will be considered as the head of the household if the ‘owner’ is under 18 years.
  10. In case of injury or death, the insurance company which insures the dog is also liable for the medical bills of any injured persons.
  11. Any seized dogs can be destroyed within 7 days unless the owner is located and informed. If the owner is informed and does not claim then the dog is destroyed after three days and the owner is billed for costs and is liable for any damage, injury or death.
  12. No dog of the listed type may be given, sold or exchanged.
  13. Where a dangerous dog enters onto private premises the owner or occupier of those premises may destroy the dog.
  14. The Minister has the power to add any dog on the schedule (list) as arises.

The fines and prison sentences are high, and rightly so. So far, I see nothing in this Act that is either draconian or unfair. Consider that the past 10 years, over 14 persons have been killed, including children, and many more injured, I think it is right that the onus of responsibility goes to the owners. If anything, I think this law is still too damn lenient.