Halt Euthanasia/Deportation Of ‘Illegal’ Animals

March 20, 2017 | 28 Comments

[Updated] “I have asked the Department of Environment and Natural Resources to immediately halt the euthanasia or deportation of illegal animals that have no history of aggression pending legislative amendments and a full review of policies going forward,” Minister of the Environment Sylvan Richards said.

Sylvan Richards TC March 20 2017

Speaking in the House of Assembly today [March 20], Minister Richards said, “You will be well aware that this Government, as well as former administrations, categorizes dogs by breed into a ‘Prohibited’, ‘Restricted’ or un-restricted breed. Despite no legal breeding of these dogs since 2003, the Pitbull remains the most popular breed or type of dog of the Prohibited category.

“A Pitbull can have the temperament of a loving family pet, but also that of a fierce fighter. The breed continues to be the most problematic breed, causing injury at a rate far above its prevalence in the general canine population. The behavior of the dog is not simply a question of the owner’s training or diligence.

“Illegal dogs are those dogs born outside of the authority of a Breeder’s Licence. To deal with illegal dogs, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources has developed numerous policy iterations, the most recent having been established in December 2015.

“In this policy, illegal dogs of a prohibited breed faced euthanasia or deportation, even if the individual animal had no history of having been a threat to public safety. I find this fact to be disturbing, as do many other people in our community.

“I have asked the Department of Environment and Natural Resources to immediately halt the euthanasia or deportation of illegal animals that have no history of aggression pending legislative amendments and a full review of policies going forward.

“The halting of euthanasia and deportations of illegal animals with no history of aggression does not mean that the Government will forgive the illegalities that have occurred, but simply we will not be separating these animals from their owners at this time. This action is simply a pause in this aspect of the enforcement activities.

“I will not at this time make any promises about a long-term solution to illegal Pitbulls and other prohibited breeds, but only promise a comprehensive exploration of all of the options.

“Owners of all dogs are advised to fully demonstrate responsible ownership. Be aware that if your illegal dog does act in a threatening manner or causes injury, it will be subject to seizure and disposal. This Government does take public safety very seriously.”

Update 12.56pm: A spokesperson for the ‘Punish The Deed Not The Breed’ group said they are “pleased to hear that there will be a halt to the seizure and killing of dogs being targeted solely on the basis of breed specific legislation.”

“We are of the understanding that the Canine Committee received our legislation amendments over a year ago and has had meetings to address the issues that the public have raised and supported about dog ownership laws in Bermuda.

“We are firm believers that responsible dog ownership is a must, and that legislation should reflect that, and while we are pleased with the halt of the killing of non violent dogs, we also are pleading with the Government to implement dog legislation that will be a solution on a more permanent basis; addressing the fact that the dogs can be better regulated if they are a restricted breed, as opposed to them being driven underground by prohibited breed legislation.”

The Minister’s full statement follows below:

Thank you Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker,

The issues of dogs and public safety have been raised in this Honourable House on numerous occasions, most recently by my colleague, the Honourable Minister N. Cole Simons, JP, MP in June of 2016. At that time, he reminded us that the Dogs Act 2008 had been passed by this House to bring about better control of canines, more efficient and effective enforcement, and the ability to put conditions of the keeping of individual dogs. But the 2008 Act also contains provisions that would lead us down an undesirable path where we would have weaker enforcement on some crucial aspects, such as breeding of dogs. We would not want to see an upsurge in the breeding of problematic animals. Thus I wish to inform Members of this House, and the general public, that I have continued the work of my predecessor to amend the Dogs Act 2008, based on the recommendations of the Canine Advisory Committees and various stakeholders.

The numerous amendments to the Dogs Act 2008 are in the drafting stage and I anticipate a much-improved piece of legislation about mid-year, which will place this Government in a position to re-visit the controversial breed-specific policies.

Mr. Speaker,

You will be well aware that this Government, as well as former administrations, categorizes dogs by breed into a ‘Prohibited’, ‘Restricted’ or un-restricted breed. Despite no legal breeding of these dogs since 2003, the Pitbull remains the most popular breed or type of dog of the Prohibited category.

A Pitbull can have the temperament of a loving family pet, but also that of a fierce fighter. The breed continues to be the most problematic breed, causing injury at a rate far above its prevalence in the general canine population. The behavior of the dog is not simply a question of the owner’s training or diligence.

Mr. Speaker,

Illegal dogs are those dogs born outside of the authority of a Breeder’s Licence. To deal with illegal dogs, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources has developed numerous policy iterations, the most recent having been established in December 2015. In this policy, illegal dogs of a prohibited breed faced euthanasia or deportation, even if the individual animal had no history of having been a threat to public safety. I find this fact to be disturbing, as do many other people in our community.

Mr. Speaker,

Today, I advise this honourable House that I have asked the Department of Environment and Natural Resources to immediately halt the euthanasia or deportation of illegal animals that have no history of aggression pending legislative amendments and a full review of policies going forward. The halting of euthanasia and deportations of illegal animals with no history of aggression does not mean that the Government will forgive the illegalities that have occurred, but simply we will not be separating these animals from their owners at this time. This action is simply a pause in this aspect of the enforcement activities.

Mr. Speaker,

The essential question remains ‘Can a Government justify the confiscation & euthanasia of a family pet dog that has not yet offended, even though its breed is responsible for very high rates of offences?’ Mr. Speaker, I acknowledge that the confiscation of pets is highly controversial and emotive. The Government’s practice of euthanasia of healthy dogs is open to criticism and deemed unethical by opponents, although statistics and history indicate that leaving such dogs in the community will lead to increased complaints in future years.

Mr. Speaker,

Bermuda implemented breed-specific policy in 2003 with success, yet breed-specific legislation/policy is very unpopular as it paints individual dogs with a broad brush without regard for individual variation. It affects all citizens instead of only ‘irresponsible’ citizens who keep offending dogs. Opponents of breed-specific legislation insist that biting/injury and straying incidents are a result of irresponsible owners and are not a function of the breed. Their mantra is “Punish the deed, not the breed”. Whether the owner or the dog is responsible for the offence, Bermuda’s statistics indicate a positive result from our breed-specific policy, which continues to seek prevention of injury; not merely a reaction to injury once injury has occurred.

Mr. Speaker,

I will not at this time make any promises about a long-term solution to illegal Pitbulls and other prohibited breeds, but only promise a comprehensive exploration of all of the options.

Owners of all dogs are advised to fully demonstrate responsible ownership. Be aware that if your illegal dog does act in a threatening manner or causes injury, it will be subject to seizure and disposal. This Government does take public safety very seriously.

Mr. Speaker,

I take this opportunity to thank the Animal Wardens who do have a job made more difficult by actions of irresponsible people in our community. Through their efforts, combined with those of the Bermuda Police Service, SPCA, the Canine Advisory Committees and canine groups, the Bermuda has become a safer community.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

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Comments (28)

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  1. Gina Davis says:

    Does this mean those who now have illegal dogs can go and license them? Can they now be legalized or will they remain illegal, but now they will not get murdered?

    Like(16)
    Dislike(7)
  2. Hope says:

    No dog has a history of aggression until it does. Then it can be too late.

    The fault lies with the people illegally breeding. For those who love this breed, stop buying them illegally. You are only feeding the black market for them and causing their suffering. The penalties for supplying the market should be a lot more strict, as an incentive to put an end to it.

    Like(33)
    Dislike(6)
  3. watching says:

    Election is definitely in the air.

    Like(24)
    Dislike(7)
    • Toodle-oo says:

      Is that another way of saying that a certain demographic is being targeted ?
      Because every time the accusation is made , that's what's being implied .

      Like(5)
      Dislike(1)
      • PBanks says:

        Possibly, although in this case the target demographic is dog-lovers, which appears to be a broad section of the community.

        Like(1)
        Dislike(1)
      • Nanny Pat says:

        Yes, that demographic is "animal lovers who also vote!"

        Stop race baiting! Good Lord, give it a break! This is about animals. Seriously, take a freaking break!

        Like(3)
        Dislike(1)
        • Toodle-oo says:

          I think you misdirected your comment to me instead of 'watching'

          Like(0)
          Dislike(0)
  4. Reuben says:

    So rather then enforce the law your going to pander to those that break it? Yeah that makes soooo much sense, well just another cost to the tax payer so why should you care?

    Like(27)
    Dislike(12)
    • thetauntingtenticle says:

      What taxpayer money? The wardens rarely deal with pitts anymore unless they are being seized/exported. Pitts that are found are usually reported to PDNB not the wardens.

      Punish the Deed Not Breed Bermuda exports these dogs, not the government.

      Speaking of "costs to the taxpayer" wouldn't it make sense to charge a higher fee for pitts to be licensed? If you don't pay the fee well then your dog can be seized. Simple as that.

      Like(3)
      Dislike(0)
      • Reuben says:

        And when they take a pitt, they have to hold it at the kennels, they have to feed it, they have to make sure that the kennel is cleaned out daily and all the other things one has to do when a dog is in tyour possession. they have to do this for the entire length of the court case, that is the cost to us the tax payer.

        Like(2)
        Dislike(1)
      • Reuben says:

        Oh and for your comment about the higher fee, how does that make sense when we are talking about illegal dogs? their not legal thus not licensed in the first place. But the law should be enforced to the max, breeding a dog illegally has a max fine of 10,000 dollars but you will never, never see a court issue that fine even for repeat offenders.

        Like(2)
        Dislike(0)
  5. Reuben says:

    This is stupid pandering to those that are willingly breaking the law at the cost of tax payers. This is just going to cause far more issues that it will fix. Stupid in so many ways.

    Like(26)
    Dislike(19)
  6. jim says:

    So, people who have already broken the law by having an illegal dog are being given a free pass, until their dog attacks another dog, or person?
    These dogs are illegal for a reason.
    It makes as much sense as giving those with firearms a free pass, until the 'gun' commits an offence.

    Like(18)
    Dislike(16)
  7. BullyBreed says:

    This is a step in the right direction.

    Like(19)
    Dislike(15)
    • Real Deal says:

      Many have already died for this. puppies and all. well I could never be the one to give the needle. I just don't got the heart for that type of stuff. your heart has to be strong. dogs have the same eyes as humans and they are so big and open when they look at you.

      Like(7)
      Dislike(7)
      • Debbie B says:

        No one who truly cares about dog welfare wants more dogs to be born with the trait to develop deadly dog aggression.

        Pits are different. Proof is the fact that essentially all UK and NA dog fighters choose pits exclusively.

        Other dogs weren't created to mature to become game insane, to leave home and attack their own family, their own kind, UNPROVOKED and PROLONGED.

        The kind sane answer: mandatory enforced sterilization of pits BULLY dogs, all dog aggressive dogs.

        Like(24)
        Dislike(13)
  8. Southampton Resident says:

    What part of illegal do people not understand?

    The law is the law and if you knowingly acquire an illegally bred animal then you should face the consequences, regardless of how cute a puppy it is.

    Like(33)
    Dislike(16)
    • thetauntingtenticle says:

      I would like you to find a puppy who has been locked in a cooler to die and just walk away....

      Like(0)
      Dislike(4)
    • Bermudian says:

      Exactly! Punish the owner not the dog.

      Like(2)
      Dislike(0)
  9. SMH says:

    My pitbull would not hurt a fly! Its like saying all muslim are terrorist

    Like(1)
    Dislike(2)
    • Zevon says:

      So in your view, not all tigers would be dangerous pets then, presumably, Some are good with kids and make nice pets.
      And cobras, and anacondas, and alligators.
      Saying they're all dangerous is just racist.

      Like(2)
      Dislike(1)
  10. Maddog says:

    Dog owners need to do research around ANY breed before buying them. So many are ignorant to a dog's natural born instincts, i.e agression, digging, high strung....they have NO IDEA how to handle them, or give them what they need to thrive and be happy....and the result...unhappy animals, left home all day in the house, or tied up, with little or no exercise, and no socialising...and then the dog gets the "reputation". Dog owners please PAY ATTENTION, do the esearch, and ensure you can provide a lifestyle that is condusive to the type of animal that you choose. Like children, a dog's behaviours are a result of their upbringing. Someone please bring the Dog Whisperer to Bermy....

    Like(2)
    Dislike(2)
  11. Huh says:

    Every pit bull in Bermuda should be destroyed.

    I've yet to encounter a "friendly" pit bull on this island, so when you think about the fact that they're all in-bred it makes a recipe for disaster! There should be NO lee-way when it comes to this breed in particular and unless you've been attacked and disfigured by one, don't comment because it's always the people that have never suffered from these dogs that have the most to say!!

    Like(7)
    Dislike(4)
    • Izzypop says:

      Pple like you make me sick
      U hv never owned a Pitt so hv no clue
      Anything with teeth can bite and do damage
      I was bitten by a cocker spaniel and no longer can see well out of my left eye

      Like(1)
      Dislike(3)
  12. Common Sense says:

    What breed of dog is most likely to ----
    1 Seriously bite humans; or potentially kill
    2 kill other peoples' pets
    3 Be used for fighting
    4 Guard drug dealer's property
    5 Be left chained outside exposed to the elements without water or shade?
    Illegal breeding of pitbulls in Bermuda is a lucrative money making business. I always wonder what qualities of pitbulls are so desirable that other breeds will not do, when a family pet is said to be wanted.

    Like(5)
    Dislike(3)
  13. Puma says:

    Thank you.

    Like(0)
    Dislike(2)
  14. Real Deal says:

    My Idea, all large growing dogs regardless of breed should be:
    1)required to be trained
    2)Get a Temperament check-up on their birthday each year.

    If the dog fails the temperament check-up and the owner is at fault the owner is fined and must attend training classes with the Dog.

    Like(1)
    Dislike(0)

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