By DANA SMITH
Tribune Staff Reporter
THE Bahamas Humane Society is prepared to take legal action against surrey operators who fail to comply with the Animal Protection and Control Act, the organisation’s president announced yesterday.
In a statement sent to the press, Kim Aranha said the Humane Society believes downtown Nassau’s surrey business “should stop altogether unless it is wholly revamped.”
Such “revamping” would require the formulation and enforcement of strict regulations, she explained, and any form of abuse or animal neglect woud be met with immediate prosecution,
immediate suspension of a licence to operate and immediate confiscation of the horse pending prosecution.
Mrs Aranha said that Humane Society representatives have already met “several times” with Transport Minister Glenys Hanna-Martin and the Society is also “committed” to working with the Ministries of Agriculture and Tourism to “transform” the surrey industry.
“The Bahamas Humane Society recognizes, however, that such a transformation cannot happen overnight,” she said. “Accordingly, it is concerned to ensure that all Surrey horse operators and drivers found to be committing offences under the Animal Protection and Control Act 2010 be prosecuted and their horses taken into its care in the meantime.
“If necessary, the Bahamas Humane Society is prepared to bring its own private prosecutions and is presently taking legal advice in this regard.”
Mrs Aranha explained the Act provides that any person who cruelly beats, ill-treats, overworks and abuses an animal, or who deprives it of the food, drink and shelter it requires, or who commits or omits any act which results in an animal being caused unnecessary suffering, is guilty of an offence which, on first conviction may result in a fine not exceeding $5,000 or up to six months imprisonment or both fine and imprisonment, and for a subsequent offence to a fine not exceeding $20,000 or up to twelve months imprisonment or both fine and imprisonment.
It also provides that anyone being convicted of such an offence may also be disqualified for such period as the Court thinks fit from having custody of the animal, she said.
Mrs Aranha also called attention to another piece of legislation – the Cabs Act.
She said this Act provides that surreys shall carry no more than two passengers over the age of 14; that the surrey’s licence to operate may be cancelled if the surrey horse is not properly shod; or is suffering from illness or injury or is otherwise unfit for use as a surrey horse; or if in the opinion of the Cabs Board a licensed driver has ceased to be a fit and proper person to hold a licence, or has become incompetent or ill treats his horse, or is a drunkard, or whenever he commits any offence under the Act.
The Act also prohibits surrey horses from working during the hours of 1 pm to 2 pm from November 1 to April 30 inclusive, and from 1pm to 3pm from May 1 to October 31, inclusive. During those hours, as well as when not in use, the horses are required to be under a shelter and throughout the day to be supplied with fresh and sufficient drinking water, she said.
The Humane Society is calling on Bahamians who witness any law violations to contact the Society or the police.
“Anyone who witnesses any breach of the requirements of the Cabs Act or any cruelty to a surrey horse should write down the license plate number of the surrey, the number on the driver’s badge, the time and location; the colour of the horse and any other descriptive markings; take a video and/or photographs if possible and immediately telephone the Bahamas Humane Society,” Mrs Aranha said.
The Society’s actions are in part motivated by last week’s death of a 22-year-old mare named Bloody Mary which collapsed and died on the corner of Dowdeswell and Christie Streets.
They “strongly condemn” that death and also “the horrific sight” of a surrey driver whipping his horse “which was so weak and emaciated it had no strength left to pull the surrey,” Mrs Aranha said.
The reported whipping was allegedly witnessed two days after the death of Bloody Mary.