Roaming pitbulls kill four chickens, including show birds
Two roving pitbull terriers have been caught on camera slaughtering a Warwick family’s pet chickens as the island contends with a surge in attacks.
The couple said that their 14-year-old son was left in shock by the killing of the valued fowl.
Dog wardens told the family that the pitbulls, picked up on a security camera and familiar in their Cedar Hill neighbourhood, were not licensed.
The family, who asked not to be named, said that they remained highly upset by the May 18 attack, in which the dogs could be seen killing four pets after ripping through the bird coop.
The boy’s mother added that he had been “traumatised”.
“I feel bad because I was away when this happened and not there to comfort him.”
She was travelling overseas when her outdoor security camera notified her of activity.
“I saw two dogs in our yard. One had something in its mouth.”
Video footage showed the two dogs “finishing off the last chicken”.
Bodies of four birds were left strewn around the yard, with one that was badly injured left dying. Their wooden coop had been broken open.
Along with show birds, a Rhode Island Red rooster was killed.
The family said that the news came as a blow to the Bermuda Poultry Fanciers Society, because the island lacks males in that variety to breed more of the chickens.
Another of the chickens killed, a Japanese bantam, was a show bird.
After the family reported the attack, they were told that dog wardens had found the house from where the animals came.
The dogs were said to be unlicensed, but would not be euthanised.
According to the family, wardens informed them that there was an expired licence for two dogs at the location, but not under the name of the occupant of the house.
Efforts by The Royal Gazette to contact the owner of the dogs were unsuccessful.
“The wardens said they were under-resourced and underfunded and that the courts are backed up,” the woman said. “A lot of the time dogs will sit in kennels waiting for the courts to hear the case, and it takes a long time.
“They also told us that if we want to get financial compensation, we have to take the owners to court.
“We are going to have to invest several thousand to get a steel cage — the warden said our cage was not dog-proof. So we have to spend God knows what to get a steel-reinforced cage because there are so many pitbulls.
“We have to protect our property with extra security, wiring, fencing. That is something we are trying to get quotes on, but that’s not something dog owners are going to pay for.”
She added: “So an animal can come on your property, murder your pets, destroy property, and we have to take the owner to court to get paid back for the damages. But it’s the emotional toll this has taken on us.”
She said the surviving 11 chickens were being housed in a laundry room because “I do not trust that the dogs will not come back”.
“I have breeders who want to give me birds because they feel so terrible, but we’re not going to take any. We need to know what kind of action will be taken.”
She added that they lived “sandwiched between a nursery school and a church frequented by senior citizens” and feared what might happen to a vulnerable person who encountered pitbulls running loose.
Figures given in response to Gazette queries show animal wardens contending with a rise in dog complaints.
“Public safety complaints“ include wardens assisting police as well as biting, injury, chasing, threatening behaviour and cruelty involving dogs.
2021: 661 complaints, 107 public safety, 163 animals collected
2022: 1,022 complaints, 200 public safety, 313 animals collected
January to March 2021: 163 complaints, 23 public safety, 38 animals collected
January to March 2022: 241 complaints, 46 public safety, 59 animals collected
January to March 2023: 300 complaints, 65 public safety, 78 animals collected
The Ministry of Home Affairs confirmed that on May 19, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources received a complaint about the attack.
Details could not be given as the matter is under investigation.
The ministry said: “However, generally speaking, dog attacks are probed to identify the victim(s) and, if needed, advise them where they can obtain assistance; identify the attacking dog(s) to ensure the public threat is addressed; to determine the circumstances that lead to the injury; and to identify the owner(s) of the attacking dog(s).”
The next steps were said to be “highly variable” according to circumstances and wishes of the parties involved.
Dog licence status was said to be “immaterial” in the event of an attack.
“A dog, be it licensed or unlicensed, should not be launching an unprovoked attack, and such an incident reflects more on the dog's genetics, its level of training and the owner's diligence in preventing such incidents.
“Many owners are in denial about what their dog will do when left to its own devices, especially when multiple dogs roam together.”
Animal wardens do not decide whether to euthanise a dog, but DENR officers, as well as victims, can have a degree of say.
“Still, the circumstances of the case, the dog owner's wishes and the magistrate's ruling may all come into play.”
The ministry acknowledged that the Government was “not immune to the financial challenges facing governments worldwide”.
“Although impacting Animal Control, the section remains dedicated to its mission of providing round-the-clock service.”
The section has been approved to hire two more dog wardens, returning them to full staffing, with recruitment under way.
“Animal Control seeks to prevent straying, especially of the restricted-breed dogs.
“A part of doing this includes officers inspecting the property of anyone interested in specific breeds before they can obtain a dog.
“Requests for inspections have become backlogged as we respond to increased reports involving dogs, including attacks, strays and assisting police.
“Data shows that complaints and animal collections have risen sharply in recent years. With the increased number of animals collected, more animals are housed in our care, more time goes to cleaning and feeding, and less time is available to respond to non-urgent complaints.
“The Ministry of Home Affairs has formed an advisory committee to examine the issues and forward recommendations for consideration.
“Lastly, the ministry fully supports the Department of Environment and Natural Resources and its animal wardens for their commitment to a challenging and, at times, thankless job.
“Wardens continue to perform their duties under difficult circumstances, driven by a desire to do well by animals and to protect the public from the consequences of careless owners.”