Pit bull that killed dog is put down
Lobby group: Guidelines are needed
Kristin Divine, founder of the breed advocacy group, Our Misunderstood, released this statement last night:
Our aim is breed equality and education. We are an advocacy group comprised of responsible dog owners and advocates of various breeds — particularly the more ‘misunderstood’ breeds such as the American pit bull terrier, American bulldog, Staffordshire bull terrier, rottweiler, and the German Shephard to name a few. Though we focus more on the larger dog breeds, we are advocates and supporters of all dogs and their owners.
We are happy to hear of the Canine Advisory Committee’s recommendation to move most dog breeds from prohibited to restricted. We believe that by doing so, we are encouraging more responsibility with whatever dog a person chooses to own. We believe you should have a choice in the dog breed you want, however, there should be guidelines and provisions to ensure owners are taking the best steps forward with their dogs. If this means each previously prohibited dog should be spayed, formally trained and/or socialised, and chipped, then this should be considered a viable guideline.
From what we are learning, most responsible owners would have no problem taking any necessary steps involved in owning their dog legally. The problem is many illegal dogs already exist on the island. It would be impossible to track all of these dogs down and euthanize them. By encouraging individuals keeping these illegal dogs to step forward in this manner, we are providing an acceptable option for them to do what is best for their dog.
Our Misunderstood has been contacted by a number of unlicensed dog owners seeking assistance. We cannot help other than remind them of the current law and advise them of the potential risks they are taking in keeping a banned breed. Unfortunately, with the policies currently banning these breeds, it leaves no effective options for owners to take advantage of, other than turning the dog over to be destroyed or now possibly sending the dog overseas.
Some owners are contacting dog trainers and being turned away due to the legality of the dog. A change in policy might be the step needed to regain control of the entire dog population in Bermuda, regardless of the breed involved — we just need to uncover the best route of doing so.
A pit bull was destroyed by dog wardens yesterday after it killed a Yorkshire terrier in St David’s.
The attack — in front of the Yorkshire terrier’s owner and her nine-year-old daughter — happened at about 3.30pm on Sunday on Texas Road, according to police.
The incident has been reported to Government’s Head Dog Warden and the Department of Environmental Protection confirmed last night that the pit bull was destroyed at its owner’s request.
Meanwhile, The Royal Gazette can reveal that Government has been advised to take pit bull terriers and other banned breeds off its prohibited dogs list.
The Canine Advisory Committee appointed under former Environment Minister Sylvan Richards has recommended that the only dogs which should stay on the list are wolf and wolf-hybrids, this newspaper understands.
The committee told Mr Richards — who was replaced by Trevor Moniz in a Cabinet shuffle in December — that all other breeds currently on the prohibited list should be moved to a managed restricted list, in line with several other countries.
That would include America pit bull terriers, American bulldogs, American Staffordshire terriers, Argentine mastiffs, Boerboels, Brazillian mastiffs, Cane Corsos, Presa Canarios, Neapolitan mastiffs and Tosa Inus.
A source told this newspaper that Bermuda’s current policy of banning certain breeds of dog was not working.
“There are 825 licenced and registered pit bulls on the Island,” said the source. “However, we know there are a lot more than 825 pit bulls. We have forced a black market that has probably tripled that now.
“So, at the end of the day, we are not fixing the problem. We are further compounding the problem by not addressing it like other jurisdictions.”
The source said Canine Advisory Committee members were asked last year to research all the breeds currently on the prohibited list and come back with ideas on how they could best be managed.
All five members came back with the view that the prohibited list should be largely abandoned and banned breeds should be allowed but much more strictly controlled.
“Everyone agreed on moving from prohibited and moving these banned dogs to a managed, restricted scenario,” said the source.
“In the media, Sylvan Richards said he was going to eradicate Bermuda of pit bulls. He came to agree with the committee’s position to do away with the prohibited list and move the breeds over to a restricted list and come up with more in-depth management.
“The position of most people is that it’s not the dog, per se, it’s the owner. [But] we are not holding people accountable and having people be responsible, nor are we educating the public and owners about breeds.
“The current legislation [on dangerous dogs] is good legislation but it’s just not enforced as diligently and consistently as it should be.”
Mr Richards revealed in December, soon after Mr Moniz took on the Health and Environment portfolios, that he had reconvened the Canine Advisory Committee seven months earlier and asked it to review Government’s policies on dangerous dogs.
His comments came after he was handed a 2,000-signature petition by campaigners calling for pit bulls to be taken off the prohibited list.
Mr Richards said the committee had “come up with a very good policy going forward, and I think that if it is enforced, and put into play, I think it would take care of a lot of the issues we have right now”.
Mr Moniz said last week he would not comment on the issue until he’d had chance to fully review the original policy and any recommendations from the Canine Advisory Committee.
Committee chairman Glenn Doers said yesterday he planned to ask Mr Moniz for a meeting, in light of the attack at the weekend and a story last week about a suspected pit bull cross who was taken to the States by its owners to avoid it being put down by dog wardens.
Mr Doers said until such a meeting was held he would refrain from comment.
Former committee member Charles Butterfield told this newspaper he believed pit bulls should be allowed but only from selected breeders, to ensure the dogs come from a wider gene pool.
“I don’t think that there should be a ban on the dogs totally,” he said. “I don’t think there should be any breeding going on [in Bermuda]. What we need to do is educate the people about the dogs.”
Dog trainer Fabian Minors said the ban on pit bulls had resulted in a shrinking of the gene pool, resulting in more aggressive dogs.
He added: “It isn’t about the breed. It’s the personality that’s inside the dog. It all boils down to education. You can have a Jack Russell do just as much damage.”
Kristin Divine, founder of Our Misunderstood, a group calling for an end to breed-specific legislation, said: “I’m glad the advisory committee recommended the removal of most breeds. We completely agree some breeds should remain restricted due to the fact that, in the wrong hands, any dog can become vicious.”
A police spokesman said regarding Sunday’s incident: “It appears that a St George’s woman and her daughter were walking along Texas Road with two dogs when a pit bull terrier attacked one of their dogs, which apparently died of its injuries at the scene.
“The mother, daughter and their other dog were not injured. The Government dog warden has been made aware of this incident.”
Pit bulls were banned in the UK in 1991 but owners can keep their dogs if they are deemed not to be dangerous. They must be muzzled and neutered and owners must take out insurance against them injuring people.
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