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Laws need changing to hold abusive pet owners to account – SPCA

Kate Terceira, executive director of Bermuda SPCA pictured with a pitbull that was under the charity’s care (Photograph by Akil Simmons)

Laws must be updated to address a lack of accountability for abusive pet owners that is having a “devastating” effect on the community.

This is the view of animal welfare charity Bermuda Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals which is working on recommendations for amendments to current legislation.

Kate Terceira, executive director for the Bermuda SPCA, said: “The current laws and the way of monitoring breeders, owners, importers and commercial facilities need updating.

“The Bermuda SPCA is proud of our evidence based modalities, education department and high care standards. However the lack of consequences and accountability for those that choose to abuse, neglect or are cruel to animals is having a devastating effect not only on the animals involved but the community as a whole.”

Ms Terceira was speaking after a sick and malnourished dog and her five puppies was rescued by the charity recently. The dog Xena and the pups were found abandoned under a van.

She said that the vagueness of the requirement to “provide adequate food, shelter, water” for animals is open to interpretation and must be more specific.

“Condition of animals must be so poor and the burden of proof exacting,” Ms Terceira said.

She said the ability to ask for trials should be prioritised or fast tracked in certain cases such as “where there are circumstances that lead the officer to need a court outcome sooner, in cases if the owner is reoffending, the costs associated with care are skyrocketing, or the animal’s welfare is compromised”.

She said that there is a need for management and disposal applications to be made to the courts to carry out management actions such as gelding [castration], or vaccination of seized animals and, in the case that large quantities of animals are seized, to have the ability to foster out, re-home, sell or slaughter if necessary where it is impractical and cost prohibitive to maintain them pending a long trial.

She added: “We would like the ability for SPCA animal welfare officers to access previous animal welfare convictions when investigating an offence and prior to court action.

“Internal records are better than before but we are unable to access any convictions taken by government wardens. There is already a system to access convictions immediately prior to sentencing, however we should be able to determine if someone is a first offender or not, at the time we deal with the incident.

“Directly determining motivation and any decisions made in respect of a person being a repeat offender, we need to know they are an overall repeat offender.”

There are other amendments the charity is working on which remain in the early stages of discussion.

They include restrictions on tethering and activities such as pony racing and wedding party carriages in temperatures over 85 degrees.

Ms Terceira said that Xena was not only neglected and starved, she was with her puppies in 86 degree plus temperatures.

Discussions are also being held about the need for improved and monitored licensing, and transparency of animal imports including ponies and horses, and restrictions and transparency on the disposing of ponies used for pony racing.

Full details on all rules and regulations for keeping an animal in Bermuda can be found in The Dogs Act 2008, the Care and Protection of Animals Act 1975 and the Bermuda National Parks Act 1986.

SPCA inspectors are specifically named in legislation under the Care and Protection of Animals Act.

Regulations subsequent to any of the Acts are available at Bermuda Laws Online. For more information about the Bermuda SPCA, click here.

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Published August 02, 2022 at 7:58 am (Updated August 02, 2022 at 7:58 am)

Laws need changing to hold abusive pet owners to account – SPCA

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