By DENISE MAYCOCK
Tribune Freeport Reporter
THE Humane Society of Grand Bahama has put down three pit bulls which viciously attacked an elderly woman who was hospitalised last week with serious injuries.
Tip Burrows, executive director at HSGB, described the incident as tragic and is urging the government to implement the Animal Protection and Control Act of 2010 to reduce the chances of such incidents in the future.
“Let me make it clear that we do not enjoy killing, but it was our only option,” said Ms Burrows Monday, explaining.
Two men have since been arraigned in the Freeport Magistrate’s Court in connection with the pit bull attack.
Zion Douglas and a second man, both of Sunset Subdivision, were charged with permitting a ferocious dog at large, causing harm by negligence, and having an unlicensed dog.
Douglas pleaded guilty to all charges and was fined $2,680.
Of that figure, $500 is compensation to the victim.
The second accused man, however, pleaded not guilty to the charges.
He was granted $2,000 bail with one surety, and the case was adjourned to January 25.
The dogs were collected by the Animal Control Unit at the Department of Agriculture and subsequently turned over to HSGB.
Ms Burrows said the Animal Control Unit could not have removed the dogs had the HSGB not agreed to take them because the government agency has nowhere to house animals.
She said that only three pit bull dogs, not four, were turned over to them by Animal Control.
“We had requested they obtain an owner surrender signature for the dogs as we are not equipped to house aggressive dogs, and we subsequently euthanised the three dogs (not four as reported) with no recompense,” she said.
“We understand the victim is still in hospital with severe injuries and we pray she makes a full recovery.”
The HSGB executive does not believe that pit bulls are “monsters.”
“While the dogs, in this case, were pit bull type dogs, any dog can bite.
“This is not a dog problem, nor a particular breed problem, it’s a people problem,” said Ms Burrows.
“Like any other dog, these dogs were innocent puppies with likely only the purest of dreams to become someone’s beloved companion.
“Had the owners of these dogs properly trained and socialised them, and kept them safely and humanely confined, this incident would not have happened.”
She indicated not all pit bull owners are bad people, but said that many young men prefer that breed of dogs as a pet.
“There are far too many people acquiring dogs for the wrong reasons, and with no knowledge or desire to socialise, train and care for them properly.
“They only want to breed and make money, or to make them ‘bad dogs’ as some sort of pathetic status symbol.”
Of the three pit bull dogs brought to the shelter, Ms Burrows said two were very aggressive. She said the dogs also had “skin problems and were not in the best shape.”
Ms Burrows stated only a magistrate could order a dog destroyed.
But, in this case, approval was granted by the Animal Control Unit.
“Generally, the dogs … would be held at a facility until the matter is completed, but we did not have a facility to keep aggressive dogs.
“We are not a government facility and court matters could drag on a long time. So we had the owners sign over the dogs to us,” she explained.
“The Animal Protection and Control Act of 2010 remains largely unimplemented.
“We urge the newly elected government to take the necessary steps to update it and bring it into action.
“We and our counterparts in The Bahamas’ animal welfare field stand ready to assist in any way we can with our resources, expertise, and first-hand experience,” she said.
Ms Burrows said that the provisions in the Act would have provided for even stiffer penalties in this case.
“But, most importantly, if utilised properly, the Act would protect both animals and people and reduce the chances of tragic incidents like this occurring in the future,” she said.
Ms Burrows also urged the government and law enforcement to start addressing the rampant over-breeding, neglect, and cruelty to animals happening on the island.
She called on all concerned “to help make The Bahamas a kinder, safer place for animals and humans alike.”