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2004-05-20 08:25:38

'Spay And Neuter' On Patrol

The Bahamas Humane Society's vigorous spay and neuter programme, dubbed 'Who let the dogs out,' has moved from Bain Town to the Montell Heights area.

Patrolling the area Tuesday, inspector Steven Turnquest, Shelter Manager at the Humane Society, said the programme was being sponsored by the Sunrise Rotary Club of Nassau in conjunction with the Ministry of Agriculture's Canine Control Unit and the St. Cecilia community-policing programme. He said the group intended to visit every house in the area, bordering Robinson Road, from Lincoln Boulevard in the east to East Street in the west.

The objective is to determine, as best as possible, the number of dogs in the area that are not spayed or neutered, as well as the amount that are unwanted. Once this was determined, Mr Turnquest said, arrangements would be made to spay or neuter the dogs that had not undergone the sterilisation procedure and also to pick up the ones that had been abandoned. The Sunrise Rotary Club is paying for the animals to undergo the procedure free of charge. When completed, the team will move next to Nassau Village.

"Basically we target the areas by the amount of complaints that we have, the amount of ambulance calls that we have, and the amount of requests that we get to have animals neutered," Mr Turnquest said. The shelter manager also encouraged animal owners to licence their pets to prevent them from being inadvertently picked up.

Inspector Robert Simmons from the St. Cecilia Urban Renewal Project pointed out that, whenever other government departments spearheaded initiatives in the area, the police came out to provide security. "There are times when persons may not want their dogs taken away, because they have the wrong concept ... when the humane society is trying to help them to control the pet population," he said. He explained that there had been several complaints of stray dogs in the area that turned over garbage bins, creating a health hazard.

Also participating in the walkabout was Dr. Keith Campbell, Consultant Veterinarian at the Department of Agriculture. The main concern for the department, he said, were stray dogs, which included unlicensed dogs and licensed dogs that have been abandoned by their owners. He said dog owners had to realise that they shared a dual responsibility in that they had to be held accountable for their animals' care and well-being as well as the interests of their neighbours by ensuring that the animals did not trespass on the neighbour's property, damaging it and/or harming people. He noted that the department was also pushing for amendments to the Dog Licensing Act to make owners responsible and accountable for their animals. "You see not only pit bulls bite and attack people. The problem really is owner responsibility," he said.

There have been several attacks by pit bulls on residents, in some cases deadly. Again, many of these have not been kept on leashes prompting a call for an amendment to the Dangerous Dog Act. However, Dr. Campbell said the onus should lie with dog owners not necessarily legislation. Some residents have even called for those dogs to be banned, but Dr. Campbell said he did not think a ban on pit bulls was the solution, adding that those advocating their banning were hoping to close a gate long after "the horse is out of the barn." "And if you just go around and collecting dogs, it's like bailing out a leaking boat without fixing the hole. In order to address the problem, it's a matter of changing attitudes and behaviour. The way to do that is education and legislation," he said.

Presently under the Dog Licence Act, the Canine Control Unit is only able to apprehend unlicensed dogs. Dr. Campbell said licensed dogs technically had license to be on the streets.

Mindell Small, The Nassau Guardian 

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