Saga reiterates responsible pet ownership after increase in dog attacks
Saturday, January 14th, 2017
After a recent spike in dog attacks, the Saga Humane Society is on a mission to spread awareness on responsible pet ownership. Saga reminds the general public that responsible pet ownership is a must, and that there are public laws in place regarding dogs on the island.
Dawn LoCascio, who sits on Saga’s Board of Directors, stated that recent incidents involving four dogs that were attacked by vicious dogs is a grave concern to Saga. “In the first two weeks of 2017, these four dogs were seen by Dr. Tummons, Director of International Veterinary Medicine and Veterinary Health Assistant Ingrid Lima. The patients all suffered extensive wounds, and one died from its injuries. Two were treated and have been released to their owner, and one is in a questionable state,” said LoCascio.
She believes that tragic incidents such as these, can be prevented if people were not only acquainted with the laws, but adhered to them. Roaming dogs, either by choice or accident, pose a potential threat to the community. “Responsible pet ownership remains the only solution to this sad and preventable issue. All dogs must be treated kindly, cared for with food, water, shelter from the elements and proper veterinary care. They must be walked on a leash and not allowed to roam. This simple act of responsibility by dog owners could eliminate the attacks, the overturned garbage cans, feces in public areas, and alleviate the amount of “hit-and-run” deaths,” said LoCascio.
Responsible pet ownership includes having your dog: licensed, vaccinnated against rabies, and spayed and neutered. Pet owners are asked to restrain their dogs in a humane manner on private property, either by a fence, tether or leash. If you’re in public, dogs are required to be kept on a leash and under the pet owner’s immediate control.
Since the leash law became effective on January 1, 2016, Saga states that a high percentage of pet owners in San Pedro Town are still violating the law. Therefore, Saga strongly encourages all dog owners to respect and abide by the laws of Belize and the laws as mandated by the San Pedro Town Council (SPTC) Dog Control Orders.
Under the Belize Dogs Act Chapter 153 Revised Edition 2000 and the San Pedro Town Dog Control Order of 2012, all dogs are required to be leashed and have a proper collar with their SPTC license tag. Failure to comply will result in the penalty cited with the Belize Dogs Act Chapter 153 Revised Edition 2000 Section 3 (1): “Except where no dog license is required, every person who keeps a dog in town without being licensed for that purpose or who keeps in any town more dogs than the number he is licensed to keep shall be liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding ten dollars for each period of seven days, or part of such period, during which he has so kept any dog.”
Saga explained that allowing your dog to roam the street is also punishable by law. “No owner of a dog shall permit that dog to be at large in any street or place of public resort or within Ambergris Caye, and any person who contravenes this section is guilty of an offence and is, on summary conviction, liable to a fine of $100.”
Based on statistics, over 50 attack victims were treated at Saga in 2016. However, dogs whose injuries were too extensive were humanely euthanized. Saga wishes to decrease the number of annual dog attacks, and hopes that laws related to dogs can be strengthened through the help and enforcement of the San Pedro Police Department (SPPD) and the SPTC. “Saga Humane Society is not to interpret the law, but to promote the adherence to these laws, with the strict opposition to eradication. Saga further encourages SPTC and police units to enforce the existing Belize Dog Act laws to make the island a safer place for both residents and tourists alike,” said LoCascio.
On Wednesday, January 11th, the SPPD spearheaded the South Ambergris Cate Neighborhood Watch discussion regarding the recent dog attacks, pet owner responsibilities, and presented official laws pertaining to dogs. Held at the Lone Star Grill and Cantina, Officer in Charge of the Coastal Executive Unit, Assistant Superintendent Henry Jemmott concurred that stray dogs, especially ferocious ones, are indeed a threat to society. Therefore, he explained the rights police have, along with the dog catcher, if a dog is found in violation of the law.
According to Section 10 (1) of the Dog Act of The Substantive Laws of Belize, Revised Edition 2000, “Whenever a dog is seen in a town, on a highway or in a place of public resort in any of the following cases- (a) not having a collar/leash with a licensing badge for the current year attached thereto; or (b) appearing to be a stray or ownerless dog; or (c) being a bitch in heat and being neither led nor carried; or (d) suffering from any contagious disease and not being carried; or (e) suffering from any disease or injury which causes pain to the dog and being neither led nor carried, that dog may be seized by any police officer or dog catcher and the owner of the dog shall in cases (a), (b) and (c) be liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding twenty-five dollars.”
The meeting was successful, and the owners of the attacked dogs did not press charges. “The meeting was well-attended and much-needed. I did my part by sharing the dog laws to the gathering, and the two parties reconciled. I dealt with it impartially–how the law would. The SPPD is willing to assist Saga, and help enforce these laws,” said Jemmott.
He also states that each pet owner in San Pedro needs to more responsible. “Regardless of how little or how much a fine is, pet owners need to instill a sense of responsibility. This not only will give the owner ease, but it will protect the community. Owners need to be aware to follow all regulations because a dog attack can range from a simple offense to a crime, or lead to a civil suit. So it is important to have proper control of your dogs, and keep them contained at all times,” said Jemmott.
In a case of a dog attack on humans, Saga, along with the SPPD urges the victim to seek immediate medical attention before contacting the police. Afterwards, the police can assist the victim by issuing them a medical release form, which will validate their injury before making a police report.
In the meantime, Saga continues their mission to educate the public, while asking for their full cooperation in their efforts to make the island more pet friendly. To learn more information on these leash laws or if you have questions/concerns, you may contact Saga Humane Society by calling 226-3266, or visit their website at www.sagahumanesociety.org.
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