Last update: 21-Dec-2013 4:18 am
Saturday, December 21, 2013
Trinidad & Tobago Guardian Online
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Give dog bill more teeth not enough attention paid to animal welfare
The only piece of existing animal welfare legislation for T&T is the Summary Offences Act, 1921; Chapter 11:02 which relates to offences punishable on summary conviction (tried in a magistrate’s court without a jury).
Relevant sections include: Section 78: “In Sections 79 to 80 (inclusive) “animal” means any horse, mare, gelding, colt, filly, bull, cow, ox, steer, heifer, calf, mule, ass, ram, ewe, sheep, lamb, boar, sow, barrow, hog, pig, goat, kid, dog, cat, or any other domestic animal, whether of the kind or species particularly mentioned or of any other kind or species whatsoever and whether a quadruped or not.” This means that the act covers all domesticated species of animals in T&T: our companion animals, laboratory animals and farm animals but overlooks our captive zoo animals and wildlife (dealt with in the Conservation of Wild Life Act, 1958).
Section 79 (1): “Any person who cruelly beats, ill-treats, starves, overdrives, overloads, abuses, tortures or otherwise maltreats any animal is liable to a fine of four hundred dollars or to imprisonment for two months.” The rest of Section 79 deals with “overloading draught animals and ill-treating those animals used to draw vehicles.” Section 80 places a “fine of $400 or two months imprisonment for working an animal suffering from a condition (lameness, emaciation, disease etc) which renders the animal unfit for work.” In this modern age of motorised transportation, animals are now rarely used as draught animals in T&T.
The Dog Control Bill, 2013, which is “an act to provide for the control of dogs and to regulate the manner in which certain breeds of dogs are kept by their owners or keepers; to repeal the Dangerous Dogs Act, 2000 and for related matters” attempts to include the responsibility for care of dogs in Section 5A which states: “Every person who keeps a dog shall provide the dog or cause it to be provided with adequate and appropriate care, food, water, shelter, exercise, attention and veterinary care as may be required to meet the needs of the dog.” The most obvious omission from this bill is that although a duty of care is specified, there has been no stated penalty for failing to meet with this requirement. The bill needs to be more explicit in defining the responsibility entailed.
The following five issues are found to be among the most important regarding people’s attitudes towards animal welfare:
1. Freedom from hunger or thirst by ready access to fresh water and a diet to maintain full health and vigour
2. Freedom from discomfort by providing an appropriate environment including shelter and a comfortable resting area
3. Freedom from pain, injury or disease by prevention or rapid diagnosis and treatment
4. Freedom to express normal behaviour by providing sufficient space, proper facilities and company of the animal’s own kind
5. Freedom from fear and distress by ensuring conditions and treatment which avoid mental suffering
Although the concept of five freedoms originated with the report of the technical committee to inquire into the welfare of Animals Kept Under Intensive Livestock Husbandry Systems, the Brambell Report, United Kingdom, December 1965; these rights pertain to all animals under human control regardless of purpose for which kept. These five freedoms should not constitute the sole responsibility for care of dogs in T&T but should be used as guidelines for codes of practice which are then used for the purpose of providing practical regulation under the provisions of the bill. The Government is therefore to be commended for this progressive step towards ensuring the protection of our animals, but sadly this Section 5A falls far short of the target and should be re-addressed to be given more teeth.
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