Barbados: Rush for dog licences after mauling death

Barbados Today:-There has been a rush by Barbadians to have their dogs licensed since retired nurse Verona Gibson was mauled to death by a pack of canines, including pit bulls, just over two weeks ago.

The Animal Control Centre is reporting that the number of applications has increased fourfold since the deadly attack on the 74-year-old of Monroe Road, Haggatt Hall about 5:30 a.m. on Saturday January 28.

“Since the unfortunate incident we have seen the number of persons coming forward to license their dogs quadrupled,” Acting Animal Control Officer Peter Belgrave told Barbados TODAY Tuesday afternoon.

“It is sad that persons did not see the importance of this exercise before the horrific incident,” Belgrave added.

The dog control officer could not say how many dogs had since been licensed. However, the centre had previously said there were 32, 417 dogs registered here up to last year, and 20,781 dog owners.

Since a dog licence, which costs only $5, is valid for a period of 12 months, it was not clear how many of the licences granted in the past two weeks were renewals.

Under the Dog (Licencing and Control) Act of 1984, dog owners face a $250 fine for failure to register a dog. There is a $100 fine and/or a month imprisonment for failure to attach a tag to the dog.

Four days after the attack on the elderly woman, who was on her way to clean the St Barnabas Church, Minister of Health John Boyce had announced plans to amend the legislation.

However, he did not reveal if the changes would include the banning of some breeds of dogs.

The attack had led to calls for the banning of pit bulls, and for the animals involved to be destroyed.

Belgrave told Barbados TODAY the animals had been placed in the care of the Animal Control Centre pending the outcome of the investigations being conducted by the Royal Barbados Police Force (RBPF).

However, he said there was nothing in the current policy by the Ministry of Health that mandated that animals that maim or kill people must be put down.

“The matter is still pending and until we get the final verdict from the legal luminaries the dogs will be held in our custody.

“As far as policy goes [for dealing with dangerous dogs] this is a matter which the Minister of Health along with Cabinet would have to discuss. I am sure they are looking at . . . the amendments which would have to be made to strengthen the legislation and I would carry out the policy at my level,” he said.

Belgrave also said it was not true that some breeds of dogs were genetically predisposed to kill. Instead, he argued that a dog’s potential threat to the society was dependent on its socialization and environment.

“What is a dangerous dog? How do you make the definition? If a dog is at my premises, fully secured and that dog growls or snarls at someone coming onto the premises, does that make my dog dangerous, or is he simply protecting its territory? So when we are looking at this whole concept of dangerous dogs we must fully explore the behavioural patterns of these animals.

“We want to also encourage persons to spend some time in socialization because it is definitely lacking because of the busy schedule which persons have these days. Persons don’t spend quality time with their animals, so the animal does not get accustomed to that human interaction,” Belgrave contended.

Meanwhile, spokesman for the Royal Barbados Police Force Acting Inspector Roland Cobbler has confirmed that the owner of the dogs that killed Gibson and attacked 30-year-old Damien McCollin when he attempted to save her, has been released from police custody pending further investigations.