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Dog attacks under-reported, says Government

A Pitbull terrier of the type said to have been involved in attacks around the island as Government has pledged to crackdown on dangerous dogs (File photograph)

The scale of Bermuda’s dog attack problem has been highlighted by figures showing that for every incident brought to the attention of the authorities at least a further seven go unreported.

A crackdown on dangerous dogs and their owners has been pledged by the Government today in the wake of a spate of attacks, with four occurring last Friday alone – including one involving a 10-year-old girl.

High profile attacks have prompted the Department of Environment and Natural Resources to promise to deal with the increasing number of incidents as it toughens regulations.

The measures will see enforcement of the Dogs Act 2008 mandating that all incidents of dogs causing injury be reported.

Several professions will be legally required to report such incidents, particularly those in the medical and veterinary fields.

A digital reporting system is to be launched to make it easier for people to detail attacks using computers, tablets and smart phones.

And, ticketing for minor offences under the Dogs Act 2008 will also begin.

Four dog attacks on Friday

Friday’s incidents saw police and an animal warden attend a home on Summit View Drive in Hamilton Parish. Two dogs, said to be pitbulls, were seized by the animal warden after it reportedly bit a female senior.

Officers also responded to another report of a dog biting a 76-year-old woman on Luke’s Pond Road, Southampton.

A 10-year-old girl was bitten by a dog in the Middletown Lane, Pembroke area. The girl was treated for her injuries at the hospital and later discharged.

Later that day officers said there was a report of a dog attacking another dog in the Happy Valley Road, Elizabeth Hills Road area.

During the past three years, complaints of biting and injury to a person, and chasing or threatening behaviour reported to the police were highest in 2022, a DENR spokesman said.

He added: “We also recognise that, despite seeking medical treatment, incidents involving family or neighbourhood dogs often go unreported.

“Historical data tells us that King Edward VII Memorial Hospital and the Lamb-Foggo clinic see about seven to eight times more dog bite victims than the number of dog bite incidents reported to Animal Control.

“Animal Control officers often see callous attitudes among owners of offending dogs, commonly downplaying or denying the actions of their dog, or dogs, in the face of irrefutable evidence.

“Unfortunately, some consider fencing, secure keeping or proper socialisation of their powerful dogs only after a severe attack.

“All facets of our community must take dog ownership more seriously. When choosing to own a dog, you take on all the responsibilities and obligations of dog ownership.

“Dog owners will be held accountable and should now make an effort to license, legitimise and securely keep their dogs in compliance with the Dogs Act 2008.”

The spokesman said the Government “shuddered to think” about the outcomes of attacks on vulnerable elderly people, or children.

He said: “As it stands now, Animal Control has numerous pending court cases, and these recent incidents may result in at least four more.

“We shudder to think of the potential outcomes of any of these incidents, especially those involving vulnerable senior citizens or youth.

“You help keep your dogs and our community safe. Initial discussions have occurred with the Bermuda Kennel Club to educate dog owners and breeders about responsible dog ownership.”

The Government said that dog wardens deserved public backing.

The spokesman stated: “The DENR honours its animal wardens for their commitment to a challenging and, at times, thankless job.

“Wardens are often the targets of unwarranted, erroneous, mean-spirited comments on social media.

“Yet, they continue to perform their duties under challenging circumstances, driven by a desire to do well by animals and to protect the public from the consequences of careless owners.”

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Published January 18, 2023 at 8:14 am (Updated January 18, 2023 at 8:13 am)

Dog attacks under-reported, says Government

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