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Pitbull-ravaged tourist questions dog laws

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A black pitbull terrier (File photograph)

A tourist from the United States said he “dodged a potentially fatal incident” after a mauling from a loose pitbull knocked him into oncoming traffic on South Road.

The tourist, who reported the attack to dog wardens, was set upon early on May 21 as he and his wife took a stroll to the Southlands park in Warwick.

The visitor, who asked not to be identified, said he was fortunate a westbound car stopped in time while he was down, causing the animal to release his leg.

His account of the attack added: “Otherwise, I would have been run over by the car or had a worse mauling by the dog.”

He told wardens that dog “should never be allowed to attack anyone else”.

Visitor queries Bermuda’s dog laws

Lawmakers in 2018 lifted a ban on pitbulls and other breeds, listing them as restricted.

The move was applauded by dog advocates, who said the breed was not the issue — but rather bad owners.

A US visitor who ran afoul of a suspected pitbull said this week that the island’s approach might be due a rethink.

“I was informed that recently the regulations regarding American Bully and pitbull dogs were changed, and are less restrictive.

“Given the attack I suffered from a restricted breed, this change in regulations of these dogs is quite disturbing to me.

“There is no way to ensure 100 per cent of the time that these dogs will not get out of their confined areas and attack someone.

“If the outcome of my attack had been worse and the news of it widely publicised in the foreign press, the impact to Bermuda tourism could have been devastating.

“People should not be subject to this risk, which is now higher given the change in regulations.

“I encourage the Bermuda authorities to revisit this issue, and come up with some better commonsense regulations and consequential penalties for dog owners whose dogs attack or threaten innocent individuals.”

The Ministry of Home Affairs said in January that changes to the legislation would be tabled this year to deal with rising numbers of dog incidents.

The man, a doctor, said he suffered “several bite wounds to my left calf”, which he treated and bandaged with the help of his wife, a nurse.

The attack marred a five-day visit with the couple’s son, who is engaged to a Bermudian woman, with the family planning a large wedding on the island.

This week, the victim described his wound as a combination of punctures and scratches.

Everyone was delightful: a suspected pitbull attacked and bit a visiting physician, on South Shore Road, on May 21, outside the Southside property, before running off. The doctor treated his own injuries, and has appealed for ‘commonsense regulations’ addressing the issue (Photograph supplied)

He told The Royal Gazette: “I’m used to dogs. I was surprised by the aggressiveness of the attack — I’ve never had that happen to me before.

“It could have been one of those headlines: ‘Tourist gets mauled by dog and run over by car’. That wouldn’t do Bermuda any good.”

He added: “The person who stopped was very nice; she could see I was shook up, and she ushered us to the side of the road.”

He said he had been left impressed by the kindness of Bermudians.

“It’s a beautiful island, we had a nice week, and we’ll definitely be returning for many reasons.”

The mother of the bride-to-be said the bite to their guest’s leg would likely leave permanent scars.

“It’s upsetting — they hadn’t been here 24 hours before they were attacked. When they saw the dog he immediately stood still. He was not doing anything to provoke or antagonise it.

“It just came at him and hit him hard enough to knock him into the road. It had a collar on and didn’t seem to be a stray, but it was definitely a dog out with no owner.”

She said the owner of the Airbnb near by where the couple was staying was “mortified”.

“The woman said she’d never had anybody attacked by a dog, and that she had small children who could have been attacked.”

In the chaos at the scene, the visitor was unable to tell which direction the dog ran off, but described it to dog wardens as grey and white, either a pitbull or an American Bully.

“He said while the dog still had his leg, he looked up and saw traffic coming. I don’t know which would have terrified me more.”

She said wardens were told the animal likely came from a lane next to Southlands, but could just as easily have come through Southlands itself, making it difficult to link the dog to an owner.

“The wardens were so pleasant. They said the frustrating thing is they don’t have enough manpower. But if it’s a pitbull, that’s a restricted breed.

“I don’t know what the answer is, but my gut feeling is if you see something, say something. If you see a dog out loose, take a picture of it and send details to the animal wardens. We need to be part of the community and help with this problem.”

She thanked drivers who stopped to help the couple.

“Everyone there was delightful — it’s just a shame this was part of his five days here.”

The incident comes against a backdrop of rising dog attacks and negative encounters.

In April, the four staff in animal control underwent extra training, with the Ministry of Home Affairs reporting that complaints had doubled from 2021 to 2023.

The ministry said seizures of live animals tripled during that time, as did complaints of chasing or threatening behaviour.

Euthanising of animals doubled, along with reports involving biting or injury to a person — while cases where an animal was injured almost doubled.

The ministry confirmed last night that the matter has been reported to animal wardens and was under investigation.

A spokesman added: “As such, no details can be shared at this time.”

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Published May 29, 2024 at 8:00 am (Updated May 29, 2024 at 8:24 am)

Pitbull-ravaged tourist questions dog laws

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