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Vets call for responsible dog ownership

By Richardson Dhalai Tuesday, February 18 2014

Even as the Dog Control (Amendment) Bill 2014 was passed in the House of Representatives last Friday, Trinidad and Tobago Veterinary Association, (TTVA), president, Dr Curtis Padilla, has observed that legislation regarding responsible dog ownership, and not breed, specific legislation was needed to deal with instances of dog attacks in Trinidad and Tobago.

In a telephone interview yesterday, Padilla noted that similar legislation in the United Kingdom was being contested by such organisations, such as the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons which has suggested responsible ownership type legislation.

“The Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons has disagreed with breed specific legislation, and was trying to have the legislation changed, to reflect responsible ownership,” he said.

“We would prefer to have legislation to reflect what is happening in our society today, and it is not only pitbulls that have caused danger and damage to lives and property,” he said. He went on to cite instances when “packs of pothounds” had maimed and injured persons, locally.

“We need responsible ownership legislation to be tabled, so that persons who have potentially dangerous dogs, take the necessary precautions to safeguard the general public,” Padilla added.

He also pointed out that the methodology to determine pure bred dogs, as defined by the legislation, may prove a “very expensive” and in-operational as many dogs breed were similar to one another, and which may require DNA testing to determine the different breeds.

“We don’t have too many full breed animals here, because there has been a lot of mixing of the breeds, and only DNA testing can be used to determine the authenticity of the dog,” he said. He also noted that he has never encountered certain breeds which were mentioned in the legislation, such as the Japanese Tosa, and the Fila Brasileiro.

In full agreement was Animals Alive founder and president, Jowelle De Souza, who described the bill as “flawed” saying the Government may have no choice, but to withdraw the legislation in favour of a more modern version, which placed more emphasis on the ownership of the dogs.

“There is no provision for the training of dogs, because it is not only pitbull-type dogs which can hurt or injure people, and this was not addressed in the legislation,” she said.

De Souza also pointed out that persons who may be attacked and injured by dogs identified in the legislation may not be able to attain redress in the courts as the specific breeds may not be easily identifiable by vets.

“They will have to take that bill back, because all it will take is for one person to be attacked, and for the bill to be contested in court for the people to realise that they will not be able to obtain redress at the court,” she said, adding, “the burden of proof will now focus on the type of dog, and no vet will be able to positively identify the breed, without a DNA test.”

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