The Management of the Pit Bull Problem
A Statement by Senator Michael Fahy, JP, Shadow Minister for Environment, Infrastructure Strategy, Planning & Housing
24 May 2012
Recent calls for pit bulls to be taken off the banned breed list, or to be left on it, may well have been made in error. The fact is the pit bull situation is actually two problems intertwined. The first problem is that the present population of pit bulls is not being properly controlled, and the second is that we lack a suitable platform for well-managed pit bull ownership in the future.
The One Bermuda Alliance agrees that pit bulls, despite their strength, their aggression and sometimes their unpredictability, can be managed by responsible owners in such a way that they pose little or no threat to the general public. We have consulted with many people in the community, including local vets and several animal welfare experts. We’ve looked also at how other jurisdictions handle the problem.
We have concluded that the breed should remain on the banned list until Government gets serious about making the current laws and regulations effective. If the law had been enforced strictly, for example, there would be no pit bulls in Bermuda under the age of eight years. But there are more pit bulls than ever now.
Illegal breeding of pit bulls has to be stopped. There is only a small gene pool of these animals in Bermuda, and inbreeding, which is rampant, contributes to the aggression and unpredictability of the local breed population.
The dog licensing system in the Ministry of the Environment seems to be ineffective. There is a huge number of unlicensed dogs on the system (and no doubt not on the system), and the animal wardens seem to have been unable to bring their owners to book.
Dogs that attack other animals, or humans, must be dealt with properly. It is our understanding, for example, that one off-duty warden has been attacked on two separate occasions by the same dog. The dog remains free however and, in the circumstances, is a serious danger to the public.
We believe that the Dogs Act should be re-examined, and amended so as to provide magistrates, for example, with a range of severe penalty options for owners who fail to take proper care of their dogs, in addition to ordering that a dog should be put down.
Owners of dogs that attack other animals or humans must be prosecuted, and they must understand that careless handling of their dogs can result in serious penalties, perhaps including being sent to prison.
Once these things measures have been put in place and Government has demonstrated its ability to move forward with them, we believe pit bulls could be moved from the banned list to a “Restricted List”, which imposes conditions which must be met by the owner of a pit bull.
These conditions should include:
Having a completely fenced-in or walled-in yard in which the dog is kept, and from which it cannot escape.
The owner must not leave the dog tied up. It must have proper socialization and human interaction. This breed of dog should not be used to guard, for example, boat yards or warehouses because of the absence, in that role, of any meaningful socialization.
The dog must be neutered or spayed by the age of six months.
The owner must agree to inspections by animal welfare officers.
There is a saying that there is no such thing as a bad dog, only a bad owner. That is more than a grain of truth in that, and dog owners must in the future be made to realize that they are liable for creating the conditions in which a dog is allowed to become aggressive, and liable for the damage the dog may cause.