17 Jun 2013

the Dog Control Bill – A Review

Today I am returning to the Dog Control Bill 2013 (“DCB”), which will be debated in Parliament today, and which seeks to replace the Dangerous Dog Act 2000 (“DDA”). I wrote on 24th April 2012, that:

 

The reaction of Rockians will be one of shock therefore, to learn that the recommended changes are 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.

 

So said, so done.

 

Under the new DCB, the conditions for owning or keeping dogs have been made stricter and it is worth looking at some of the conditions to see how dog owners will be affected. This is only a partial look – I make no detailed analysis at this time.

 

  1. Being responsible for a dog means (a) being in charge of either (b) permanently or temporarily. If the person responsible is under 18 years, then the law recognises (c) that the person responsible for the minor is the person responsible for the dog. [The law changes ‘ownership’ to ‘responsibility’, which is far more acceptable in my view].

  2. Dogs are classed as Class A:

1         Pitbull Terrier or any dog bred from the Pitbull Terrier.

2         Fila Brasileiro or any dog bred from the Fila Brasileiro.

3         Japanese Tosa or any dog bred from the Japanese Tosa.

 

Or Class B: Any dog not listed as a Class A dog.

 

3.       A Class A dog shall be regarded as dangerously out of control if (a) it injures any person without reasonable cause; or (b) there are grounds for reasonable apprehension that it will injure any person without reasonable cause, whether or not it actually does so. “Reasonable apprehension” means apprehension as to – (a) The person’s own safety; or (b) The safety of another person.

 

4.       A class B dog shall be regarded as dangerously out of control on any occasion on which there are grounds for reasonable apprehension that it will injure any person whether or not it actually does so.

 

5.       Class A dogs must be registered, as should be the pups of Class A dogs and a licence granted by the local authority of the area in which the dog is registered. The Ministry may require a veterinary surgeon to certify in writing what type of dog.

 

6.       The local authority must keep a register of dogs which includes details of the insurance policies of said dogs.

 

7.       Premises must be inspected and approved, and an insurance policy to be granted before a licence is granted.

 

8.       Dogs must be micro-chipped before a licence is granted.

 

9.       Licence fees of $1000 per dog for two or less Class A dogs, and licence fee of $1500 per dog for three or more Class A dogs. If dogs are spayed or neutered, the fee drops to $500 per dog.

 

10.   Class A dogs must at all times wear a collar displaying its registration number. Removal or defacement is liable to a fine of $50,000 and imprisonment of one year. Failure to license a dog is liable to a fine of $50,000 and one year imprisonment.

 

11.   Owners who cannot meet these requirements shall inform the Ministry will take possession of the dogs and destroy them.

 

12.   Failure to have secure premises is an offence and has a fine of $50,000 and one year imprisonment. Class A dogs cannot be kept on premises that have more than one household. The onus is on the owner to provide proof that all conditions are met.

 

13.   Each Class A dog shall have an insurance policy subject to each claim of injury or death, not less than $250,000 or higher. Failure to comply is liable to a fine of $75,000 and to imprisonment of three years.

 

14.   Insurers may be co- joined to owners in civil action. Owners who refused to provide details of insurance commits an offence and is liable to a fine of $15,000.

 

15.   If the owner of a Class A dog allows it to enter private premises and causes a reasonable apprehension of injury, then he commits an offence and is liable to a fine of $50,000 and one year imprisonment. If the dog injures any person, then the fine is $100,000 and five years imprisonment. If a Class A dog enters private premises then the owner has authority to destroy such a dog.

 

16.   Except where veterinary surgeon certifies in writing that a Class A dog cannot be treated on private property and needs to be treated at his surgery all such Class A dogs must be treated on the owners premises.

 

17.   It is an offence for an owner or keeper of a Class A dog to abandon the dog; it is an offence that is liable to a fine of $50,000 and to imprisonment for one year.

 

18.   All Class A dogs must be trained by a certified Trainer. Any class B dog that has been dangerously out of control at least once must be trained by a certified Trainer. Failure to comply brings a $50,000 fine and imprisonment for one year.

 

19.   Owners of Class A dogs must put up a notice in a prominent position on the property that there is a Class A dog on the premises. Failure to comply is liable to a fine of $10,000.

 

20.   If a Class A dog injures a person then the owner is liable to a $100,000 fine and imprisonment for five years. If a Class A dog causes the death of another person, the owner is liable to a fine of $200,000 and imprisonment for 10 years. Any person who incites a dog to injure another person commits an offence and is liable to a fine of $25,000 and imprisonment of six months, in addition to other offences under the Act.

 

21.   Any person with five or more Class A dogs shall be deemed to be operating a kennel.

 

These are merely some of the conditions, not all, that are written into the new bill. They are harsher and more restrictive than those in the Dangerous Dogs Act that will be repealed. While I am glad that this legislation is coming into place, I cannot help but think of the more than 14 persons already dead and several dozens more injured will fall by the wayside… No owners will be punished and no compensation seems to be forthcoming.

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