Justice Minister, Delroy Chuck, says that additional legislation is coming to address the breeding and importation of specific kinds of dogs, spaying of stray dogs, among several other matters.
He noted that the Dog (Liabilities for Attacks) Act, which is currently being debated before Parliament, is limited in scope and provides for criminal and civil liability for an owner of a dog that attacks, injures and/or causes the death of a person.
“A number of points have been raised as to whether you should restrict importation, prohibit breeding, or whether we should spay or neuter [stray dogs] as the case may be. Also, whether we should in a humane manner, remove dogs that are really in a bad condition that have been impounded.
“So that will come in additional legislation that we are working on with the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, also the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development,” Minister Chuck informed while addressing a recent JIS Think Tank.
He noted that the other legislation will also look at breeds that are considered ferocious and may be prohibited from breeding or importation into the island.
Meanwhile, the current Bill provides that non-serious injuries from dog attacks will be dealt with at the parish court level. “If the injuries are really serious or especially if death occurs, then it could go to the Supreme Court level where it could be a serious criminal offence. That area where dogs jump and frighten someone is what we are now in discussion with a number of Parliamentary colleagues about.
“The feeling is that a dog attempting to bite or if someone sees a vicious dog and suffers from fright, then that should not be a criminal offence unless it is clear that the dog has attacked the person, and, therefore, caused the person to suffer great fear,” he pointed out.
The Bill defines a dog owner as the person who occupies premises where a dog is kept, has custody and care of the dog when the injury occurred or who caused the dog to be in the public place where the injury occurred.
The owner will be responsible for controlling and restraining the dog as necessary. This may involve the use of muzzles and leashes to prevent attacks and injury to bystanders.
Fines ranging from $500,000 to $3 million or imprisonment from six months to 15 years, are being proposed as criminal penalties.
Civil liabilities can also be incurred if the dog causes injury in any place other than its home or where it is normally kept.