Thu | Dec 12, 2019

Still no word on bad dogs law - Cops defend two-day delay in taking pit bulls from owner after vicious attack

Published:Monday | September 23, 2019 | 12:17 AMJason Cross/Gleaner Writer

More than a year after government minister Audley Shaw said that he would be lobbying fellow parliamentarians to strengthen legislation to safeguard the public against attacks by aggressive dogs, there has been no debate on the issue in the House.

He was speaking in the wake of the July 2018 death of 66-year-old Whittington Cole of Hampton Green in Spanish Town, St Catherine, who was walking in his community when he was viciously attacked and killed by a pack of dogs.

Shaw had told The Gleaner that the Government was prepared to ban certain types of dogs from entering the country in order to protect Jamaicans from being attacked and killed by these animals.

“Before we are forced to do that, what I want to suggest is, instead of having the Government taking drastic action, like banning certain types of dogs in this country, I am now warning everybody, go and protect your dogs, and protect our community and protect our children,” Shaw had said. “ ... It is dangerous and irresponsible for any dog owner to allow these dangerous dogs to be loose and not protect the community.”

unable to help

The issue has been thrust into the spotlight again after a St Richards Primary School grade-six teacher was attacked by a pack of pit bulls in Coopers Hill, St Andrew, late last week.

Residents were unsuccessful in their attempts to rescue the helpless woman being mauled by the four pit bulls.

Delroy Foster, one of the first men on the scene of the attack, said he was alerted to the woman’s plight at about 5:30 p.m. last Thursday, when he heard her crying, “Help! Help! Lord, help me! Somebody, come help me!”

Foster told The Gleaner that he and another man had to take refuge in their vehicle when they tried to assist the woman after the dogs turned their attention to them.

“The brethren who me call, him have a crowbar, and him say we a go come out a the car and lick the dogs ... . We couldn’t come out because the dog dem a rush wi,” he recounted.

The traumatic ordeal, which lasted for hours, ended when one of the policemen who arrived at the scene some time after 8 p.m. fired a shot in the air, scaring away the dogs.

By this time, the victim was reportedly naked from the waist down with blood and bite marks all over her body.

The police yesterday defended the two-day span between the attack and the dogs being removed from their owner as due process.

Deputy Superintendent Dahlia Garrick, head of the police’s Corporate Communications Unit, told The Gleaner that the cops could not rush to separate the animals from their owner.

“It is a process. The incident happened Thursday evening, and the primary responsibility or focus then was to ensure the victim received necessary medical attention. That investigation continued into Friday, where the necessary evidence continued to be gathered, including identifying the owner. On Saturday, we sought the assistance of the Jamaica Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals to have the dogs removed,” she explained.

Garrick also appealed to citizens with potentially dangerous dogs to be mindful of the responsibility they have to restrain the animals so they pose no harm to the public.

Under the 1877 Dogs (Liability for Injuries By) Act, “The owner of every dog shall be liable in damages for injury done to any person, or any cattle or sheep by his dog.”

Last year, Shaw indicated that he had intended to engage Local Government and Community Development Minister Desmond McKenzie, under whose portfolio the act falls, on reviewing the law with the aim of reviewing the laws and strengthening protection for citizens against such attacks.

The Gleaner was unable to reach Shaw or McKenzie for an update on whether this had begun.

jason.cross@gleanerjm.com