Call for curbing of pitbulls

  • Pitbull attack: Sterlin Smith, 79, was attacked by a pitbull and left with bite wounds on his left arm and leg

 (Photograph by Renae Stampp)

    Pitbull attack: Sterlin Smith, 79, was attacked by a pitbull and left with bite wounds on his left arm and leg (Photograph by Renae Stampp)

  • Pitbull attack: Sterlin Smith, 79, was attacked by a pitbull and left with bite wounds on his left arm and leg

    Pitbull attack: Sterlin Smith, 79, was attacked by a pitbull and left with bite wounds on his left arm and leg

  • Cole Simons (File photograph)

    Cole Simons (File photograph)

Attention to pitbull owners who break the law could prevent future attacks by the dogs, a shadow minister said yesterday.

Cole Simons, the One Bermuda Alliance spokesman on education, added that, although the Government had tightened up the Dogs Act, there were still attacks by pitbulls. He said: “In my mind, if dog owners continue to flout our dog laws, they must be punished.

“They must feel the pain, and the full weight of the law should be bestowed upon them.”

Mr Simons said the Government had to make sure there were sufficient resources to enforce regulations.

He added: “If we do not follow through on the enforcement, our canine management laws will be ineffective.

“Our Dogs Act will not change the behaviour of irresponsible dog owners. As a result, our community will continue to be at risk.”

Mr Simons said he sympathised with schoolboy Aston Jones-Williams, aged 9, who was attacked and bitten several times by two pitbulls last month.

He added: “I can’t imagine how this young boy felt during the attack and the resulting trauma he experienced.”

But Mr Simons said that people had expected attacks.

He added: “It was inevitable as a handful of irresponsible dog owners have allowed their dogs to wander and have not secured their properties to the level required.”

Mr Simons, whose King Charles spaniel was savaged and killed by a pitbull last March, said several small dogs had been mauled by the breed over the past two to three years.

An elderly man attacked by a pitbull last month backed Mr Simons’ call for owners of pitbulls to be more responsible.

Sterlin Smith, 79, said the attack was a traumatic experience and that other people, especially young children, should not have to deal with a similar ordeal.

Mr Smith, of Southampton, said: “It is an experience I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy. “When I think about it, it’s like I relive the whole thing.”

Mr Smith said he loved dogs but added: “If they are going to have these dogs, they should be really carefully contained.”

The real estate agent was attacked on March 14 as he visited a property for sale in Paget.

He said the owner was not home, but that he had visited the property before and knocked on a tenant’s door instead.

Mr Smith explained the dog that attacked was chained about 40 feet from the tenant’s home but because of the length of its chain it was able to get to him.

He said: “I’ve had some close encounters with dogs but nothing like this.”

Mr Smith was bitten on an arm and a leg as he tried to fight off the animal and the attack only ended when the tenant came to his rescue.

He added: “If I had fallen then God knows what would have happened.”

A spokeswoman for the Department of Environment and Natural Resources said the department did not know if there had been an increase in the number of dog attack reports because statistics for 2018 and the start of this year were still being compiled.

A survey in 2014 suggested that pitbulls were responsible for 141 of 259 of serious complaints made in 2012 and 2013.

Department records show that there are 574 pitbulls or pitbull-type dogs on the island, 6.3 per cent of the dog population.

The spokeswoman warned the figure might not be a “wholly truthful statistical representation” as that only represented dogs known to the department.

She explained: “The figure will not include dogs which we have never encountered and which have never been licensed.”

The spokeswoman said: “If people think a particular animal is a threat to people or other animals, they can contact the Animal Warden, who will probe the complaint.”

Owners of dogs which cause death or injury to other dogs or people, or damage to property, can face a maximum fine of $10,000 for a first offence and $20,000 for subsequent offences.

Offenders may also be liable for civil penalties.

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Published Apr 5, 2019 at 8:00 am (Updated Apr 5, 2019 at 12:50 am)

Call for curbing of pitbulls

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