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Four illegal pitbulls seized from Pembroke residence

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Pitbull pup: a restricted breed, pitbulls are said by animal authorities to increasingly be treated as “disposable” — a trend driven by illegal breeding (Photographed supplied)

Four dogs believed to be illegally bred were seized from a North Shore Road, Pembroke residence on Tuesday, police reported.

Officers assisted animal wardens in removing the animals, which occurred without incident, according to a police spokesman.

The dogs are understood to be pitbull or pitbull-type breeds — highlighted by the Government’s top veterinarian, Jonathan Nisbett, as being illegally bred and sold in the community with “reckless abandon”.

Dr Nisbett said a rampant underground trade in pitbulls, a popular breed offered an amnesty in 2018 after being classed as prohibited, was causing soaring rates of the animals being abandoned, seized and euthanised.

In an article last month for the Department of Environment and Natural Resources newsletter EnviroTalk, the vet warned that the rate of pitbulls getting put down could exceed pre-2018 levels.

The trend was confirmed last week by the Bermuda SPCA, which shelters and rehouses some, but not all, of the dogs.

Kate Terceira, executive director of the charity, warned that the high cost of neutering or spaying animals was contributing to owners giving up or abandoning pets.

Animal advocate Libby Cook-Toppan, who said she belonged to a private group assisting with rehousing the dogs, called for a subsidised neutering and spaying programme.

Breed under threat: Pitbulls risk becoming victims of their own popularity in Bermuda, animal advocates say (File photograph)

She told The Royal Gazette: “The programme could be partially funded through the annual dog licence fee, offsetting the current government outlay to cover the cost of housing, care and even euthanasia of seized dogs, plus staff and facilities.

“Dog owners could then receive assistance with the initial cost, and pay it back annually along with the licence fee for five years.”

While the annual fee for licensing a dog is $25 for animals that are neutered or spayed animals, it costs $125 for dogs that have not.

Ms Cook-Toppan said she frequently encountered members of the public who were either “not aware, confused by, or afraid of the requirements to own a restricted dog”.

“Public education and communication are key aspects to bridge this gap and help dispel fear regarding the path to legalising dogs.”

She added: “Currently there is a legalisation fee, which includes the licence fee. This can be a prohibitive additional fee especially when added to the cost of neutering.

“Perhaps the Government could agree to waive that fee to encourage more owners of illegal dogs to license their dogs.”