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SPCA says people have ‘disposable attitude’ to pitbulls

A pitbull cross breed (File photograph)

People show a “disposable attitude” towards pitbulls, according to animal advocates.

Shelters are also getting inundated with other pets, according to Kate Terceira, executive director of the Bermuda SPCA.

Ms Terceira said the charity “wholeheartedly agrees” with the warning from Jonathan Nesbitt, who highlighted a sharp increase in pitbulls that are having to be euthanised.

In the latest issue of EnviroTalk, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources newsletter, Dr Nesbitt said the euthanising of pitbulls now risked surpassing the pre-2018 levels, when government officials were compelled by law.

The practice sparked public outrage until the Dogs Act was amended by Parliament four years ago.

Ms Terceira backed Dr Nesbitt’s comments on what she called “the devastating effect of irresponsible breeding, lack of care and disposable attitude towards pitbulls and pitbull mixes”.

“The shelter is regularly overwhelmed with these dogs coming directly from members of the public, who often have no choice but to surrender a much loved family pet, as well as receiving dogs from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources on a regular basis.”

But Ms Terceira said the Bermuda SPCA was witnessing the same treatment of other animals.

“We are seeing a huge influx of smaller animals such as Guinea pigs and rabbits, which are easily obtained from pet stores and back yard breeders.

“Once home, people often realise that the Guinea pig or rabbit needs more care than anticipated, and often people find themselves with unwanted litters.”

Ms Terceira cited costs for spaying or neutering a dog as high as $1,000 or more, and up to $500 for a rabbit.

“Many people do not have these funds,” she said – adding that the SPCA hopes to establish a fund for the public to apply for financial assistance in spaying or neutering pets.

Libby Cook-Toppan, who helps with rehousing dogs, said animal lovers had been “thrilled” with the lifting of the pitbull ban in 2018.

But she said those on the front line for animal rescue “quickly realised that some saw it as an open invitation to freely breed their dogs”.

She added that the financial strain of the two-year Covid-19 pandemic had impacted the neutering and spaying of pets.

“Either way, the island has been flooded with illegal puppies.

“Sadly, on such a small island with a dwindling population, there is a limited number of homes that can meet the legal requirements to own a restricted dog, the category that pitbulls are now listed under.”

Ms Cook-Toppan said the “one positive result” of the ban lift was that the abundance of pitbulls meant they were “not the lucrative revenue source they once were”.

But she said it would not reduce the number of animals getting unnecessarily put down.

“The single most important solution, in my humble opinion, is a universal spay/neuter programme.

“Providing low-cost neutering could effectively stop the flow of puppies at the source.”

Dr Nesbitt’s article was also seen by Grace Markham, co-founder of the group Punish the Deed not the Breed Bermuda – which petitioned from 2015 for a change to the law.

Ms Markham said there was a lack of education and awareness on the extent of “irresponsible ownership”.

“Often times, I find the people who are prone to abuse animals are the same who will intentionally breed illegal dogs.

“The rules changed in 2018, but I'm not confident that the public is aware of what the rules are and if it's being policed.”

Ms Markham said the group believed that the “onus should always be on the owner, not the dog – regardless of breed”.

“I'm always saddened when my network of animal lovers is scrambling to place another pit in a suitable foster home.

“Making sure pets are fixed and adequately cared for should be an absolute minimum when it comes to owning any dog.”

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Published April 21, 2022 at 12:09 pm (Updated April 21, 2022 at 12:09 pm)

SPCA says people have ‘disposable attitude’ to pitbulls

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