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Five pitbulls euthanised as vet slams treatment of ‘favourite’ breed

Rescued pitbull finds temporary home at the SPCA (Photograph by Blaire Simmons)

Pitbulls, the island’s “favourite” dog breed, are getting put down in alarming numbers despite changes to the law intended to save pets from being euthanised.

Jonathan Nisbett, the government veterinarian, wrote a plea to dog owners after having to put down five of the animals in a single day in January.

He said all were healthy and none had been linked to aggression.

Dr Nisbett added: “Those five dogs were a part of growing trend of found and seized dogs not being claimed.”

He highlighted that “very few” owners of illegal dogs had bothered to get amnesty for pets since amendments were added to the Dogs Act four years ago.

“It is ironic that whilst the legislation allows an alternative to euthanasia of illegal dogs, Bermuda is now on track to kill more dogs than when policy and legislation were stricter.”

That reprieve, passed by legislators in 2018, followed years of high-profile campaigning by animal advocates such as the group Punish the Deed not the Breed Bermuda.

Campaigners petitioned in 2015 for pitbulls to get off the prohibited listed for the restricted breed category.

But Dr Nisbett said: “The island’s `favourite’ breed is one our society abuses and disposes of with reckless abandon.”

The vet said dog wardens encountered dogs in conditions that led them to question “why does this owner have this animal?”

“It is usually a pitbull we find in these situations.”

His comments came in the spring edition of EnviroTalk, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources newsletter.

Three of the five pitbulls put to sleep were taken from owners who refused to license and accept the animals back.

The annual dog licensing fee is $25 for animals that are neutered or spayed animals and $125 for dogs that have not.

Another person left the dog behind when he left a residence, while a fifth was left “tied to a post at a local business”.

Dr Nisbett cited recent cases including a pitbull left tied to a Railway Trail picnic bench, two abandoned in public bathrooms and another found tied to a bus stop.

He said the number in need of adoption went beyond the number of willing owners or the capacity of the SPCA.

“I plead to people who breed dogs and indiscriminately distribute puppies to recognise their contribution to the animal abandonments,” he said.

“Breeders who offer puppies at low cost will attract buyers for whom owning a dog is a questionable decision.”

The head vet said he was “very challenged by those who simply never seek a missing pet, or refuse to license their dogs and simply abandon them”.

“I detect no sense of responsibility or commitment in those owners, and my fear is that they will simply obtain other disposable dogs.”

Despite Parliament’s change of the law, he said “very few owners of illegal dogs have voluntarily taken advantage of the opportunity to legitimise their animals, and even fewer have legally bred their pitbull”.

Vets last year highlighted the plight of pitbulls as it emerged that illegally bred dogs were bearing the brunt of the infectious and easily fatal canine parvovirus.

Pitbulls were said to be frequently unvaccinated – and the local population, bred from a limited stock, was prone to inbreeding.

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Published April 20, 2022 at 6:25 pm (Updated April 20, 2022 at 6:25 pm)

Five pitbulls euthanised as vet slams treatment of ‘favourite’ breed

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