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Birthday boy says farewell to Primo

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One-year-old Dimitri James- Rawlins, left, and Dante James-Rawlins enjoy their last moments with Primo (Photograph by Akil Simmons)

A family who said farewell to their pet yesterday are calling on the Bermuda Government to end the ban on pitbulls.

Deonne Rawlins said he had to turn over the family dog, Primo, on his son Dante’s (above) fifth birthday.

“It’s really sad,” he said. “I understand they are trying to do their jobs but this blanket approach to the breed just isn’t fair. The dog could be 100 per cent fine but because they are a certain breed they kill it.”

The government issued a lengthy statement, by request of this newspaper, outlining reasons for the ban including the pitbull breed being the source of a “disproportionately large percentage of complaints of attacks” prior to the ban in 2003.

Mr Rawlins said that he first got Primo around two years ago after being contacted by a friend.

“Primo was a dog that just didn’t have a place to go. He came from a friend of a friend of a friend.

“I was told that he had nowhere to go and was going to get put down. I looked at the dog and he didn’t look like any particular breed.

“He looked like a mix. My son had been asking for a dog, and I thought it was time to teach him about that responsibility. I thought I was saving the dog’s life.”

Over the past two years, he said there had been no issues with the dog whatsoever.

“He looks much more aggressive than he really is,” he said.

“He’s really just the softest dog. You could walk right into my yard when I’m not here and pet him.

“I’ve always been very adamant about training being what it should be, especially when the dog is around a child, and he’s been very obedient since he was young. Even the vet was impressed with the dog’s behaviour when he came by.

“This dog is well taken care of. He’s never had a tick or a flea. This is a family dog that’s very much taken care of.”

Mr Rawlins said that he recently went overseas and, when he returned, he found a note on the door from the dog warden.

“Apparently my dog must have knocked over his food bowl and, later that evening, started barking,” he said. “The person watching my house wasn’t staying in the residence so he didn’t know about the food bowl immediately.

“One of my neighbours must have called because my dog was barking and he’s not really a barker. He’s not a dog who makes noise for no reason, barking at cats.

“The warden was understanding. He could have really come to the home and taken the dog but we agreed that I could bring him in. I was so upset about it that I only later realised I told him I would bring him in on my son’s birthday. I bought him for my son.”

Mr Rawlins said he felt it was wrong to kill dogs simply because of their breed, saying that other means could be put in place to regulate ownership to benefit both the public and the animals.

“I feel that every one of these owners should be assessed to find out if they are capable of handling these particular breeds,” he said. “If that’s the case, by all means they should give out provisional licences. Say the warden will come by in a few months to check in. This blanket killing of these dogs is just wrong.”

Grace Markham, spokeswoman for campaign group Punish the Deed not the Breed, said: “We are again deeply saddened to hear of another innocent dog whose life will be taken because of outdated breed specific legislation.

“We’ve been attempting for some time now to bring some amendments to dog laws so that innocent animals are not being killed and used as a scapegoat for irresponsible human actions.

“We implore that Bermudians who agree with stopping these deaths sign our petition on change.org and help us bring this to the urgent attention to the relevant people in government.”

A Department of Environmental Protection spokesman said: “The Department’s policy has been reviewed on various occasions since 2003, by separate canine advisory committees since 2010 and undergone several internal reviews. There have been amendments to breed lists and changes in Departmental policy, but the pitbull remains prohibited. The breed remains prohibited because, while it constituted 8-12% of the general canine population, over the most recent three years, it has been the subject 57 per cent of the dog attacks upon people, 61 per cent biting/injury incidents upon animals, 42 per cent incidents of chasing/threatening behaviour, 48 per cent complaints of improper care.

“It should be noted that, although the Department does euthanise illegal dogs, it is putting down approximately 50 per cent fewer dogs than it did in 2003.”

Dante James-Rawlins with Primo