Illegal pitbull owners may be ‘incentivised’ to license dogs
Public education will be the tool used to combat a pitbull “crisis” driven by illegal dog breeding, the home affairs minister said yesterday.
Walter Roban said that efforts would be taken to remind pitbull owners of their responsibilities as caretakers.
He added that incentives would also be looked into to encourage owners to license their dogs.
Mr Roban said: “The ministry is keenly aware of the multiple issues surrounding the proliferation, abuse and safety associated with pitbulls.
“We continue to explore ways to address these problems and means in which only responsible owners can have restricted breed animals.”
Mr Roban spoke after staff at the SPCA revealed they were struggling to keep up with a surge in unwanted pets, particularly pitbulls.
He told The Royal Gazette that, while creating more barriers on legal ownership could raise the standard for caring for the animals, it would burden “only those who follow the law” – who “are not the problem owners”.
Mr Roban added that a “ticketing mechanism” could be a more efficient means of prosecuting offenders, but added that incentivising owners was a better tactic than punishing them.
He said: “A ticketing mechanism makes for a more efficient means of prosecution.
“However, the department is exploring incentivising owners to license their dogs and keep them more responsibly.
“We are focusing on more public education so that owners will be aware of their responsibilities.”
Mr Roban added: “We share the concern identified by the SPCA – that of the mental wellness of the caregivers, the shelter staff and our animal wardens who must deal with the relentless scenarios of neglect, then provide care for these animals, often followed by seeing many of them euthanised.
“The victims of animal neglect and abuse are not only those with four legs.”
The SPCA begged owners of restricted breeds to treat their pets better. It added that they were high-maintenance dogs with demands that many owners could not meet and would end up giving the animals away.
Kate Terceira, the executive director of the animal shelter, said the majority of pitbulls came from illegal litters – where dogs are frequently unvaccinated, not wormed, and increasingly impaired by inbreeding.
She announced an emergency “dogsnip” scheme where owners of restricted dog breeds could have their pets spayed or neutered, a procedure that could cost as much as $1,000.
Ms Terceira said that returning pitbulls to the island’s list of banned breeds, after they were given a reprieve by legislators in 2018, would not help the problem.
But she added that lawbreakers should not get let off lightly and should be blocked from owning dogs.
Jonathan Nisbett, the government veterinarian, had also sounded the alarm in a March newsletter over a surge in abandoned pitbulls, animals seized and pets being put down.
To donate to the SPCA’s dogsnip fund, click here.