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Report to tackle dangerous dogs

Pitbull terrier (File photograph)

A report with suggestions for dealing with restricted dog breeds and protecting the community from dog attacks will be handed to the Ministry of Home Affairs by June 21, the Senate heard yesterday.

The details from Lindsay Simmons, the Junior Minister for Home Affairs, came against a backdrop of pitbull incidents in public places.

Information from the Ministry of Home Affairs in January showed that dog attacks and complaints had surged, and a Canine Advisory Committee had been tasked with drawing up recommendations on legislative amendments to be tabled this year.

Ms Simmons’s comments in the Senate came days after witnesses filed a report to animal wardens about a “very disturbing and traumatic” incident in Spanish Point on Saturday, when a man was bitten while on a main road and needed hospital treatment.

Anne Smith and her husband told wardens they were heading back from Spanish Point Park at about 7pm when they saw a “big, heavy-set pitbull” being walked on a leash abruptly lunge at a man walking with his mother, biting him on the abdomen.

The couple told wardens they felt “very strongly that this dog should not be out on the streets in Bermuda” and could have inflicted “serious damage” had its victim been a child.

Ms Smith added that their grandchildren, who recently visited from abroad, felt safe walking from their Pembroke home to the Admiralty House park nearby.

She wrote: “It is just horrific to think our grandchildren could be subjected to such danger, and ourselves — and you can be sure that I am now frightened to randomly go walking around the streets of Bermuda.”

She referenced an attack near Southlands that was reported last month in The Royal Gazette, in which a pitbull running loose attacked a visiting American couple at the roadside, biting a man on the leg and knocking him into the road.

The victim in that case, who said he narrowly avoided being hit by traffic, suggested the island’s laws on restricted dog breeds should be tightened, after legislators lifted a ban in 2018.

The bystander bitten in the Saturday attack was said to be familiar with the dog that attacked him and “had no fear” when he saw it being walked.

Ms Smith added: “The victim also told us he was a real dog lover and dogs usually took to him, and so he was in shock at this attack.”

The couple highlighted that the man walking the animal was dog-sitting for a friend and helped the injured man treat his wound before he went to the hospital.

They said the dog-walker, who shared his contact details, also “insisted that the dog had never done anything like this before”.

However, the couple told wardens they felt aggressive breeds should be euthanised after an attack.

Ms Simmons, who was replying to questions from Robin Tucker, the Opposition Senate leader, told the Upper House it was “premature” to give specific details on the Canine Advisory Committee’s recommendations ahead of the report going to Walter Roban, the home affairs minister, for a decision.

The government senator, who is chairwoman of the committee, added: “We know this is an urgent matter and are pushing forward so the minister will be able to get the information on June 21.

“From there, he will set the timetable out on how we move forward.”

Ms Simmons said the group had met four times over the past year.

Ms Tucker asked for an update on the progress of a system for digitally reporting dog attacks, which was announced in January 2023.

Ms Simmons gave an implementation date of September 21. She said it would coincide with filling a “vacant animal warden position, which will bring the section up to full strength”.

She said the issuing of tickets for minor dog offences was “not yet in force” at the Department of Environment and Natural Resources — but that amendments to the Dogs Act 2008 were “currently in process” to introduce it.

Ms Simmons added that two dog offences had been successfully prosecuted so far this year, with two court summonses “due to be served”, one case lodged with the Director of Public Prosecutions and seven cases being compiled for submission to the DPP.

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Published June 13, 2024 at 8:00 am (Updated June 13, 2024 at 7:39 am)

Report to tackle dangerous dogs

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