BREED SPECIFIC LEGISLATION is being considered for the holiday island of Barbados after a shock announcement from the newly-elected Government.
A statement from the Environment Ministry indicated that the Government was going to ban a number of so-called dangerous dog breeds, following the usual spate of well-publicised dog attacks that invariably presages any political call for BSL. The breeds cited as dangerous are: Cane Corso, Presa Canario, Japanese Tosa, Boerboel, Argentine Mastiff (Dogo), Brazilian Mastiff (Fila), Australian Dingo, Akita, as well as the usual suspects, American Pit Bull Terriers and any of their crossbreeds.
However, following an outcry form pet owners and anti-BSL campaigners around the world, the new Environment Minister Neletha Butterfield has promised to review Government's proposed ban on specific dog breeds but has urged interested groups to send their views to her.
Ms Butterfield said she had asked technical officers in the Ministry to look at the whole issue of dog bans again after kennel clubs and the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals criticised former Environment Minister Dennis Lister for introducing the ban without fully consulting them.
"I will be reviewing this issue and I will talk to the different groups," said Ms Butterfield.
"I will have the technical officers contact them to see what we can come up with. We are very much open to discussion, but I would suggest that the groups and people interested put something in writing and make a submission to me."
Ms Butterfield made the comments after Shadow Environment Minister Cole Simons called on her to review the dog ban again.
He said the Government-sanctioned Dog Committee published a report in 2001 saying that it was not in favour of banning specific breeds, so he questioned why Mr. Lister had pushed it forward before the General Election.
Mr. Simons said: "I recommend that the new Minister meet with representatives from the Bermuda Kennel Club, The Bermuda All Breeds Club, and the Bermuda Dog Training Club to come up with some policies which would punish "the deed and not the breed".
"Minister Butterfield must closely review and give serious consideration to the Progressive Labour Party Government sanctioned 2001 Dog Committee report. It recommends that Government not ban specific breeds.
"It suggests that we should punish the owners, and not the breed of the dog. As Kristi Grayston, of Bermuda's All Breed Club, said 'all dogs can be vicious, and most of the time the fault normally lies with the dog owners'."
Mr. Simons added: "Given that Government was now reviewing this legislation, the time was ripe to introduce non-breed specific legislation which was fair to both the dog owners and those people who regarded certain dogs as a threat to the community.
"Bermuda must also enhance its dog control legislation by increasing the penalties for owning a dog that causes serious injury. We can substantially increase the penalties to a term of imprisonment and or a $20,000 fine.
And Mr. Simons also suggested that Bermuda consider looking at introducing the muzzling of dangerous dogs when they are out in public.
A number of dog clubs and the SPCA hit out in July after the Government announced it was considering introducing the ban on breeding and importing a number of different kinds of dogs.
Chairman of the SPCA charity Dr. Andrew Madeiros, who is also a vet, said he knew nothing of the ban until pet owners started to call him with concerns, and he felt the Environment Ministry should have consulted more.
However, he said he was glad that the new Environment Minister was to review the situation. "I think certainly we are excited about having a second look at this. We feel that initially it was not handled in the appropriate way. It was sprung on everybody. We welcome the chance to participate and have our voices heard, and certainly the Veterinary Association would also like to be heard on this matter, too."