Minister On Restricted & Prohibited Dogs Policy

May 22, 2015

The issue of restricted and prohibited breeds of dogs is an emotive one, and the “Government is sensitive to this fact and it is for this reason that I appointed a canine advisory committee to consider what, if any, changes might be made to our approach to these breeds of dogs and the ability of people to own and breed them,” Minister of Health, Seniors and Environment Jeanne Atherden in the House of Assembly today [May 22]

Tthe Minister said seized animals have “been the subject of numerous break-ins and attempted break-ins at our kennel facility” and “Owners have literally ‘camped out’ at the kennel facility to be close to their seized animal.”

Minister Atherden said, “The relevant statutes vest the discretion in the disposal of prohibited breeds in the Director of Environmental Protection.

“As a matter of policy, where a person is found to own a prohibited breed of dog, there is no objection to the owner of that illegal dog exporting the dog from Bermuda prior to the Department becoming involved. In fact, this has previously been encouraged and this has been confirmed in public statements when this issue has previously arisen.

“The Animal Wardens have an enforcement function. Once an illegal dog is discovered, Wardens must enforce the law; seizure must occur. This Government understands that this is an emotive issue and some people favour the export of illegal dogs, but it must be recognized that this option is burdensome in many aspects as I indicated earlier.

“If an owner wishes to export his/her illegal dog, the guidelines I have provided can assist in that being done now. Waiting until authorities arrive at your premises to begin thinking about this option will be too late.

” I would further remind this Honourable House and the public that receiving illegal animals is an offence. Dogs may be legally obtained via importation under permit; from the SPCA or from a licensed breeder or seller. A legal dog from a local source would come with a registered microchip and a license.

“For the reasons I have outlined and pending any changes recommended by the advisory committee, the existing policy remains in force and will be applied as sensitively and fairly as possible.

“This Government wants the people of Bermuda to enjoy their pets and enjoy all of the benefits that come from dog ownership. There is a balance to be struck in this area and we are committed to doing so, putting the safety of the community first.”

The Minister’s full statement follows below:

Mr. Speaker, as recent events demonstrate, the issue of restricted and prohibited breeds of dogs is an emotive one. This Government is sensitive to this fact and it is for this reason that I appointed a canine advisory committee to consider what, if any, changes might be made to our approach to these breeds of dogs and the ability of people to own and breed them.

Mr. Speaker, the recent matter is the subject of a continuing investigation and as such I will not comment on it specifically but through this statement will attempt to remind Honourable Members and the public of the pertinent issues that are connected to this area in a general sense.

Mr. Speaker, the relevant statutes vest the discretion in the disposal of prohibited breeds in the Director of Environmental Protection. As a matter of policy, where a person is found to own a prohibited breed of dog, there is no objection to the owner of that illegal dog exporting the dog from Bermuda prior to the Department becoming involved. In fact, this has previously been encouraged and this has been confirmed in public statements when this issue has previously arisen.

For purposes of license recordkeeping, it is useful for the Department to know of any dog being permanently moved overseas. However, no person requires the permission of the Bermuda Government to export a dog. It is important to note, Mr. Speaker, that some destinations require the Department’s endorsement of travel documents. The owner of an illegal dog seeking to export the animal must be mindful of the following points:

  • Airlines have their individual policies regarding transportation of animals. Most airlines do not accept animals [as luggage or cargo] during the heat of the summer or the cold of winter. The exact dates that airline restrictions come into place is determined by the airline and the expected weather conditions along the planned route. Travel that involves connecting flights is more problematic.
  • Some airlines do not accept dogs of specific breeds.
  • The pit-bull type dog is prohibited in several jurisdictions and owners should ensure their dog will be accepted into the destination chosen.
  • The receiving party should be made aware of any behavioural issues or aggression displayed by the dog prior to agreeing to accept it.
  • Once the Department has seized an illegal dog, the option to export is no longer the owner’s choice; as I indicated previously, the law vests the discretion in the Director of Environmental Protection.

Mr. Speaker, the Department has determined that it is simply impractical and unworkable to offer export of seized dogs for reasons that have grown out of past experiences. There are “lessons learned” in this area. Some of them include:

  • The illegal animal becomes a burden on the public purse [to feed, clean, care and liability for injury] for extended periods of time, which have lasted upwards of 8 weeks, while persons search for a new home to accept their animal. These expenses are caused by the offender’s choice to acquire an illegal dog, yet are not recoverable from the offender.
  • Prolonged kenneling of the dog is stressful and unfair to the animal, especially for the protracted periods of time owners have taken to act.
  • The Department becomes the ‘culprit’ when forced to bring these matters to a close after several weeks
  • Owners become demanding upon the Department to feed special diets or to accommodate visitations, all based around the owner’s wishes.
  • Seized animals have been the subject of numerous break-ins and attempted break-ins at our kennel facility. Even when break-ins were unsuccessful, the building was left in need of expensive repairs. These events raise concerns about the safety of our officers.
  • Persons/Owners have literally ‘camped out’ at the kennel facility to be close to their seized animal. Having persons loiter about the kennel also raises concerns about officer safety.
  • In general we are speaking of dogs that are of a prohibited/restricted breed, and thus a dog about which the Bermuda Government already has concerns. There is a responsibility [perhaps liability] upon the Government to ensure that the animal being exported poses little/no unreasonable risk to those receiving it. That is a responsibility we cannot take lightly, and is a responsibility that cannot be satisfied with a simple temperament test.
  • Airline policy [as explained above] leads to inconsistent resolutions of cases which, although not rooted in Government policy, make Government appear inconsistent. The Department simply cannot hold animals waiting for the weather and circumstances to become favourable for transport.

Mr. Speaker, the Animal Wardens have an enforcement function. Once an illegal dog is discovered, Wardens must enforce the law; seizure must occur. This Government understands that this is an emotive issue and some people favour the export of illegal dogs, but it must be recognized that this option is burdensome in many aspects as I indicated earlier.

Mr. Speaker, if an owner wishes to export his/her illegal dog, the guidelines I have provided can assist in that being done now. Waiting until authorities arrive at your premises to begin thinking about this option will be too late.

Mr. Speaker, I would further remind this Honourable House and the public that receiving illegal animals is an offence. Dogs may be legally obtained via importation under permit; from the SPCA or from a licensed breeder or seller. A legal dog from a local source would come with a registered microchip and a license.

Mr. Speaker, for the reasons I have outlined and pending any changes recommended by the advisory committee, the existing policy remains in force and will be applied as sensitively and fairly as possible. This Government wants the people of Bermuda to enjoy their pets and enjoy all of the benefits that come from dog ownership. There is a balance to be struck in this area and we are committed to doing so, putting the safety of the community first.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

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Comments (45)

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  1. Micro says:

    Rubbish.

    Like(29)
    Dislike(27)
    • sage says:

      Exactly, all this speaks to the dismal failure that this intolerant policy is.

      Like(16)
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      • Zevon says:

        No, it speaks to the cruelty of people who own illegal animals.

        Like(29)
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        • Jr Smith says:

          illegal animal? lol. the laws of man trumps the laws of God? how can an animal be illegal or a plant? y'all keep sipping that kool aid....

          Like(21)
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          • Zevon says:

            Don't you think it's illegal to own a snake? Or a bear? Or a gorilla? Or an elephant tusk, or rhino horn? You think anyone can own anything they want? Got news for you, mate. That ain't how it works.

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            • Keepin' it Real!...4Real! says:

              why..? who told you that you cannot own anything which roams this earth...maybe another MAN, just like me and you..? rules and regulations were designed to make YOU dumb, but i guess you wont understand that...your mind may well exceed the minds of the ones who design your life and how you live it...but we'll never know until you start thinking for yourself...beware the bureaucracy...very simple solution is inspect, insure and implement...case closed.

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              • Zevon says:

                This is why morons like you can't get elected.

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                • Stop ya noise says:

                  I disagree because most politicians are morons

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        • Zen says:

          One of many rules and laws lazt people like you all ways seem to come up with

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      • Onion says:

        This policy has dropped dog bites by 70%.

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        • Keepin' it Real!...4Real! says:

          only because since this action period took place people became more vigilant as to securing their dogs unlike before when it was out of control from a lack of inspections...instead of putting cameras all over the place, put people back to work...get bermudians mingling instead of separating...electronic technology...ruination of humanity...ultimate goal for some i guess...

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    • Vote For Me OW says:

      Okay, so Pit Bulls have been banned from import AND breeding for 15 years or so, and the average like of a dog is what.... 8-12 years? Therefore every dog that was alive when the ban was put in place should have passed by now, or am I missing something here? Therefore, am I not correct to assume that we either a) have some amazingly healthy and young looking pit pulls here or b)there is a lot of illegal breeding going on, and nobody getting punished for it!

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  2. Rhonnie aka BlueFamiliar says:

    How about this.

    Put all breeds on prohibited list onto the restricted list if they are already on the island.

    Then an amnesty period for licencing, during which time information on which animals are neutered and which aren't is compiled. Those that aren't must be neutered, proven via a vet certificate, with the exception of those who want to breed, from which a small number of males and females are licenced to do so, the rest back to the mandatory neutering. Breeding could only actually be done dependent upon a list kept, by either the SPCA or Dog Warden, of people wanting the breed.

    Any animals found unlicenced six months post amnesty would be confiscated and gifted to someone from the list once they'd been neutered at old owners expense as part of the penalty/fine. Animals found unlicenced during the six month post amnesty period must pay a penalty/fine and then licence the animal. (Can't pay? How about mandatory volunteer work for charity beyond the neutering fee?)

    All of this is primarily paperwork, which could actually be done by volunteers who love the restricted breeds and are willing to spend some time supporting them.

    This just off the top of my head, probably needs a lot of modification, but... people who want the breeds can have them and the animals aren't punished for being a particular breed.

    Like(10)
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    • Onion says:

      That was done with the original policy. Irresponsible dog owners chose to breed illegal dogs and the recent headlines have been the result.

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      • Zen says:

        Foolish laws will be broken fool

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        • Zevon says:

          I think we know who the fool is.

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    • Changeit. says:

      Please contact punish the deed not the breed Bermuda via Facebook.

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  3. Bermudian says:

    I have one question, why can some Bermudians own "illegal" pit bulls and other cannot. Seems to me, this should be straight across the board. Either they are illegal or they are not! Make up your mind!

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    • Toodle-oo says:

      Technically , any pitbull that is 'legal' should be older than the ban itself as they were grandfathered in . So if you're talking about pitbulls that are over 11 - 12 years old , well , that answers your question.

      Anything that looks to be 3 - 4 years old or even puppyish , ask the owner where they got it or if you can scan it for a micro chip and then watch their reaction .

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  4. Get Real says:

    Bermudas government need's to wake up and realize that ANY breed of dog can be made vicious as it soley depends on how a dog is raised. To label the pitbull breed as aggressive or dangerous is as bad as labelling someones actions by their race. Complete discrimination.

    Bermuda's government needs to relaize how far behind we are in regards to this law and get rid of it.

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    • Zevon says:

      Rubbish.

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      • Zen says:

        Yes that's what I think of you and ya I'll say it to your face ya rubbish

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        • Zevon says:

          Well, there you go talking crap again.

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      • Keepin' it Real!...4Real! says:

        i think you two bies should join the KBB...

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        • Zevon says:

          And pick up tons of crap dropped by Bermudians who don't care about Bermuda. Is that what you meant?

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    • Toodle-oo says:

      So 65% of dog attacks on humans and other animals are from a pit bull population that represents less than 25% of all dog breed ownership isn't enough for you and all the other bleeding heart 'I want one' people ?

      And the information has been out there for years so don't ask me to prove it .

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      • Zen says:

        And your a fool

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        • Toodle-oo says:

          I'm a fool who doesn't go around breaking laws and then expect everyone to cry with me because I can't have everything I want.
          How many illegal pits ya got at your house ?

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        • Zevon says:

          Math not your strong point then?

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    • Rhonnie aka BlueFamiliar says:

      Please do your research.

      Yes, any breed can be made vicious, but it is not solely based on how a dog is raised.

      There are a number of breeds that have a more aggressive nature, Pitts are one of them. Because of their very protective nature towards their owners and how and for what the breed was created. Have any doubts? Ask people who have done everything right and still had a good dog attack and kill another. Not all of it is nurture, some of the issue is nature.

      You can not compare dog breeds to races of people. People are not deliberately bred to bring out particular traits, nor do they have the shorter generation length of dogs, without taking into account our reasoning factor.

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      • Zen says:

        Your an a***

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        • Rhonnie aka Blue Familiar says:

          Thank you for your opinion.

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  5. Bermybouy says:

    Everyone knows (& I mean everyone knows) that Pits are illegal so there is no excuse for having one. If people make such a case for Pitbulls the same could be said for owning so of the other breeds such as Mastifs etc. and the fiasco will continue.

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  6. Jr Smith says:

    what were the statistics for dog bites, the culling of dogs, prosecutions for having "illegal " dogs, how many search warrants have been issued for dog complaints, the budget for the dog wardens? I would like more information to be made public to see if this policy is working. Something is not right within that dept. They seem to enforce the restricted breed law more in certain ares than others. Plus if all it takes is a complaint from the public for a dog warden to "investigate" & determine weather or not to get a search warrant and enter your premises.

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  7. BullDog says:

    let dogs be dogs! stop discriminating! us black people complain about whites discriminating against us. you are doing the same dang thing to these dogs! not all black people are thugs/criminals! and not all pitbulls are vicious killers!

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  8. Anbu says:

    They want to kill pits just because they are pitts. Yet when someones terrier, yorkie whatever they r bites someone its cute because they are so little. Nobody seems to understand that terriers esp yorkies were bread to kill! Ever seen a yorkie play with its chew toy? Mauls the hell out of whatever gets in its mouth. If pitts and other "dangerous" breeds have to be euthenized then so do those little toy dogs. Owners make dogs vicious. Send the dogs overseas if u find them its prob cheaper than what they r injected with. We supply druggies with free methodone yet wont even give someones pet a chance to live. Call it being a bleeding heart, whatever. The policy is just backwards

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    • Rhonnie aka Blue Familiar says:

      Does size mean anything to you?

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  9. BermyReader says:

    I have one question. Why are some allowed to have "illegal" pit bulls and others can't. Just sayin'

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  10. cromwell says:

    The issue is not the complicated civil servant laws it is a policy decision of the Minister discretion to direct her staff not to kill puppies and find other arrangements for their lives.

    Killing of innocent puppies is systematic of a government with out respect for animal rights and by extension humans which some people consider animals.

    If the Minister cant stop her people from killing dogs what power does she actually have. If she does have the power to kill what she is authorizing is offensive to many Bermudians and millions of people throughout the world.

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  11. Born Bermudian says:

    The joke about this is that anyone can import an illegal breed dog. No one from the Department ever attends the freight shed to see whether the dog imported is the same breed as specified on the application. And they also never come to your home to see the dog either. There are quite a number of dogs here that have been imported under alias breed names. It's a joke!!!

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  12. wow so sad says:

    Wow I almost started crying when I read the part about camping out and breaking in to Spca.

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    • Pitty Owner says:

      It is NOT the SPCA kennels, it is the Goverenment Dog Kennels... The SPCA is not involved in taking the illegal dogs it is solely the Government Dog Wardens that are doing so.

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  13. soul jah says:

    So what about murders and rapists who are on work release. Give them a chance, but a dog has to go just because of the breed. I don't understand.

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    • Zen says:

      As I keep saying the hypocrisy of this island is amazing and incredible.

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  14. cold says:

    That mp women has no heart.

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