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Dog Control legislation—Part 1: Getting the facts

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Over the past 16 years various governments have been attempting to pass “dangerous dogs” legislation in response to an increase in media reports of dog-bite related injuries and fatalities. Scientific statistical data for T&T remains elusive as there is no obligation for health care professionals to report such incidents to a central database. In 1998, the Dangerous Dogs Bill was passed in Parliament, followed by the Dangerous Dogs Act in 2000. This legislation was never proclaimed by the former president due to concerns about the “draconian nature” of the law, thus it remained unenforceable. In 2012 the Government revived the “dangerous dogs” debate and some modifications were made to the Dangerous Dogs Act. The extent of the necessary changes deemed it more sensible to repeal this law and replace it with a new one. 

The name of the legislation was thus changed to the Dog Control Act, but for all intents and purposes this law still targets certain breeds of dogs considered by the general public to pose a greater danger to society, and neglects to fully address the serious issues of irresponsible dog breeding, training practices, and ownership of all dogs. The Dog Control Act, 2013, was passed in Parliament on July 31, 2013, with the understanding that various amendments highlighted during the emotional debates in the House of Representatives as well as the Senate, were to be made. Our dogs are after all members of our families, and due concern for the future welfare of our companions was evident. The amendments followed on February 17, as The Dog Control (Amendment) Bill, 2014. Such was the haste to proclaim the legislation despite the lack of measures in place to provide for the requirements of the act, that a third piece of legislation had to be devised. This is the Dog Control Act No 3 of 2014 which was assented to on March 27, and proclaimed by the President on June 2.

The consequence of this decision—compounded by the lack of honest and suitable public education pertaining to the legislation—has been one of panic amongst dog owners resulting in the not-so-conscientious citizens abandoning their pets throughout both islands. Many of these dogs were females that had clearly been used as machines for mass breeding of puppies to sell; most bore signs of physical and emotional abuse; and most were extremely friendly and grateful when rescued. Sadly, it ends in death for the majority, albeit a more humane destruction due to a bottleneck for adoption of these breeds. The breeds listed as Class A dogs are the “pure” breed or any dog bred “therefrom” or mixed with: American pit bull terrier, American Staffordshire terrier, American bully, Dogo Argentino, Fila Brasileiro and Japanese Tosa. All other breeds are categorised as Class B dogs.

The next two articles will summarise the sections of the law currently enforceable for dog owners (regardless of breed of dog) to assist you to comply with the law, but it must be stressed that the following requirements have not yet been proclaimed and are therefore not enforceable law:
• Registration of Class A dogs
• Licences for Class A dogs
• Premises inspection for the keeping Class A dogs
• Mandatory policy of insurance for Class A dogs
• Mandatory certificate of good character issued by the Commissioner of Police for the keeping of Class A dogs
• Mandatory microchipping of Class A dogs
• Mandatory training of Class A dogs by a government-certified dog trainer
• Kennel regulations for owners of five or more Class A dogs


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