You are here
Dog act must protect animals as well as people
I know we’re still aiming for 2020 vision, but it doesn’t take a guide dog for us to see how important it is to get this Dangerous Dog Act right. Let me be very clear about this: If we want to climb to the status of a first-world country, we need to act the part. We need to do more than put laws on the book. We need to pass laws that make sense. We need to pass laws that are enforceable, and then we need to enforce them.
First-world countries, like the US, have laws in place to protect people from dogs—as we are now trying to do. What is equally important is that they have laws in place to protect animals. There are actually animal cops who investigate animal abuse in the US. You must have noticed the Animal Cop shows on TV.
Progressive countries actually see that there is a clear connection between animal abuse and crime. The US, Canada, UK, New Zealand, Australia and Spain have a database at Pet-Abuse.com that lists 19,139 cases of reported and recorded animal abuse. These are cases against dogs, cats and even birds.
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), a very outspoken US organisation that monitors animal abuse cases and advocates for proper treatment of animals, has this posted on its Web site: “Acts of cruelty to animals are not mere indications of a minor personality flaw in the abuser; they are symptomatic of a deep mental disturbance.
Research in psychology and criminology shows that people who commit acts of cruelty to animals don’t stop there—many of them move on to their fellow humans. “Murderers…very often start out by killing and torturing animals as kids,” says Robert K Ressler, who developed profiles of serial killers for the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
PETA also says this. “Studies have shown that violent and aggressive criminals are more likely to have abused animals as children than criminals who are considered non-aggressive. A survey of psychiatric patients who had repeatedly tortured dogs and cats found that all of them had high levels of aggression toward people as well.” PETA points to a report in a New South Wales newspaper that followed a police study in Australia that claimed: “100 per cent of sexual homicide offenders examined had a history of animal cruelty.”
I will spare you some of the horrific details. The point is that first-world countries with 2020 vision realise that an important part of measuring a country’s social wellness is its laws regarding the treatment of animals. In the US, a dedicated animal cop division of the police force works tirelessly to rescue abused animals and prosecute abusers. This is what we will need here if we’re truly going to enforce a dog act.
I know this seems laughable to many people who feel that the police are overburdened at best, and lackadaisical in general about enforcing the laws of Trinidad & Tobago. How, you might ask, are the police, who have no visible presence on our roads or in our neighbourhoods, going to investigate animal abuse, when they can’t even dole out traffic tickets or keep up with the rising murder rate?
That the police need to be more proactive on all levels is certainly not a debatable issue, but what we need to realise is that if we had a dedicated animal-abuse unit, we might actually lighten the police load by monitoring people at risk for committing crimes in the future. It makes sense to monitor and even try to educate or help people with social issues that lead to animal abuse especially since there are studies that show the connection to further crimes.
In many ways the way we treat our animals and the way we deal with those who commit crimes against animals says something important about who we are as a people. Showing compassion for innocent animals and prosecuting those who abuse animals shows that we are a caring people. It shows that we are willing to recognise the connections between animal abuse and crime so that we can prevent future crimes. It shows that we are proactive and we don’t just passively wait for crime to get out of hand.
It shows that we heed the research and the experiences of the first world countries we try to emulate. Preventing animal abuse is an opportunity to teach empathy. It is a way to teach anger management. It is a way for Government to monitor explosive situations in which other types of abuse could be going on, such as child abuse or wife-battering.
Yes, we need a Dog Act in Trinidad—not just a Dangerous Dog Act, but a Dog Act meant to protect us all from the abuse and crime that goes on in this society. The Dog Act should be an opportunity to develop the discipline and the caring that we need to see our way forward so that we can truly become a nation with 2020 vision.
User comments posted on this website are the sole views and opinions of the comment writer and are not representative of Guardian Media Limited or its staff. Guardian Media Limited accepts no liability and will not be held accountable for user comments.
Please help us keep out site clean from inappropriate comments by using the flag option.
Guardian Media Limited reserves the right to remove, to edit or to censor any comments. Any content which is considered unsuitable, unlawful or offensive, includes personal details, advertises or promotes products, services or websites or repeats previous comments will be removed.