Support: Jack Castle, a rottweiler breeder, backs proposals to move the breed from the banned list to a new ‘restricted’ category. *File photo
Support: Jack Castle, a rottweiler breeder, backs proposals to move the breed from the banned list to a new ‘restricted’ category. *File photo
An overhaul of the way dogs are classified in Bermuda could be implemented within weeks.

The move could see rottweilers, Staffordshire bull terriers and mastiffs taken off the banned breed list and put into a new “restricted” category.

German shepherds, dobermans and Rhodesian ridgebacks would be placed into the same group.

Dogs in the new category would be allowed into Bermuda but there will be additional conditions attached for keeping, licensing and breeding.

Proposals

They would have to be kept in an escape-proof enclosure, which could include the inside of a house, outdoor pen or fenced yard.

Dogs in the restricted breed group would not be allowed to be tied on the property.

The proposals, by the Canine Advisory Committee, would also mean anyone wishing to own a restricted breed must have their property inspected to make sure they meet the requirements before getting the dog.

The committee has already presented an eight-page report to the Department for Environment and Sports, which is considering the changes.

Shinah Simons, chairman of the committee, told the Bermuda Sun the proposals aim to improve public safety.

He added: “We don’t want to penalise responsible owners.

“The major change is a number of dogs coming off the banned breed list and the creation of a new restricted class.

“Owners of dogs in the restricted category have a number of conditions to satisfy if they want to own or breed their dog.

“The purpose is to ensure the owners are responsible, the dog is properly treated and the public is suitably protected.”

Mr. Simons said the new rules would not apply to people who already owned dogs in the restricted category.

He added: “If you already own a ridgeback or a shepherd you will not have to do anything different.

“It only affects those who bring in or breed dogs after the date the rules are brought in.”

Under the new proposals the banned list would be reduced from 23 breeds to 12.

Pit bull terriers, American bulldogs, Argentine mastiffs, tosa inu, boerbel, cano corso, Brazilian and Neapolitan mastiffs, and wolves remain on the banned list.

Ridgebacks

While akitas, bull terriers, bull mastiffs, English mastiffs, rottweilers, Staffordshire bull terriers and dog de Bordeaux move to the restricted list, along with Australian cattle dogs, Belgian malinois, bouvier des flandres, chow chow, doberman pinschers, German shepherds and Rhodesian ridgebacks.

The proposals have been welcomed by international rottweiler breeder Jack Castle and the SPCA.

Mr. Castle, who shows his dogs across the world, said: “Moving rottweilers into the restricted category would make my life a lot easier. I have dogs in California I would be able to train in Bermuda if the regulations are brought in.

“My dream is to represent Bermuda in an international show with my rottweilers and these new proposals make that a step closer.”

Dr. Andrew Madeiros, chairman of the SPCA, said: “We were against the ban when it was introduced because we felt it was targeting the dog rather than the owner. Most of the problems we see are with irresponsible owners.

“These recommendations represent a change in philosophy and that is a good thing.

“There are going to be some owners of dogs which have been brought into the restricted category, like shepherds and ridgebacks, who will feel it is unfair.

“But we need to look at the bigger picture and the benefits that flow from the extra conditions.

“We hope to see more changes in relation to educating owners and checking suitability but this is a good starting point.”

The Ministry for the Environment and Sport is considering the proposals.

Ellen-Kate Horton, permanent secretary for the minister, said: “A decision about whether to adopt these recommendations will be made in the next couple of weeks.

“The Minister is pleased with the work of the Canine Advisory Committee.

“We are looking at the recommendations very seriously.”