Mayor cautions dog owners

The Island Newspaper, Ambergris Caye, Belize            Vol. 12, No. 39            October 10, 2002

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Mayor Alberto Nuñez wishes to notify all pet owners of the laws regarding owning dogs in Belize. Although Saga Humane Society has done much to contain the stray population of the community through a spay/neuter program, many animals continue to roam the island unattended. This is in direct violation of the law and strays can become a health hazard, in that unkempt, diseased dogs may infect other dogs, as well as humans when they are in this state. When the number of animals "at large" is deemed a nuisance to the town, the Mayor is entitled to request an eradication of stray dogs, which is carried out by local authorities. The current laws of Belize follow a practice of eliminating these stray animals using strychnine poison, which is fed to the dog in capsule form.

    The practice of letting dogs run free in San Pedro has long been tolerated by our local authorities, but with the human, and canine, population growth this can no longer be tolerated. Dogs with contagious skin diseases such as mange, and sexually transmitted diseases continue to re-infect each other as they socialize and mate. Dogs defecating on the streets also cause a health threat to humans by exposing their bare feet to worms contained in the feces. Several canine diseases can also be spread this way, and this can be fatal to dogs that are not vaccinated. Dogs should either be chained or kept inside their owner's fenced yard. They are not to run loose on the island and allowed to reproduce at will. Due to the many irresponsible and negligent pet owners, these animals have become a nuisance and, regretfully, they will need to be destroyed.

    Saga Humane Society recommends owners provide dogs with proper collars to avoid chafing and rubbing the neck raw and have a generous length of chain or rope when they are tied. They must also have fresh food and water daily, and shelter from the sun and other extreme weather conditions. All puppies should be vaccinated against canine illnesses at six, eight and twelve weeks of age. Sterilization is also urged to prevent additional unwanted animals.

    According to the Laws of Belize concerning dogs, Chapter 15, section 10, regarding the "Power to seize dogs in certain cases," the law states, Whenever a dog is seen, in a town, on a highway or in a place of public resort, in any of the following cases (a) not having a collar with a licensing badge for the current year attached thereto (not applicable in San Pedro); or (b) appearing to be a stray or ownerless dog; or (c) being a bitch in heat and being neither led nor carried; or (d) suffering from any contagious disease and not being carried; or (e) suffering from any disease or injury which causes pain to the dog and being neither led nor carried, that dog may be seized by any police officer or dog catcher and the owner of the dog shall in cases (a), (b) and (c) be liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding twenty-five dollars: provided that a person shall not be convicted under paragraph (a) if he proves that no license is required in respect to the dog.

    Regarding section 14, the "Power of magistrate to order the destruction of dogs," the law explains, Whenever it appears to a magistrate (mayor) on complaint being made to him under the Summary Jurisdiction Ordinances, that a dog is vicious or savage, whether to animals or human beings, or likely to spread any disease or, by reason of its habit of persistent barking or for any other reason, is a nuisance, the magistrate may order the owner of the dog to keep it under proper control or in such a manner that it shall not be a nuisance or may order the owner to destroy the dog.

    Section 17, "Prohibition on allowing dogs to be at large," states, Notwithstanding anything contained in this Ordinance, no owner of a dog shall permit that dog to be at large in any street or place of public resort in any town. Any person who contravenes this section is guilty of an offense and is, on summary conviction liable to a fine not exceeding one hundred dollars.

    Once the eradication is ordered, section 18 (f) of the law states, A public health inspector and a police officer shall accompany each team which is engaged in a poisoning operation. The public health inspector shall ensure that (i) the poison is not scattered broadcast but thrown to individual dogs which are at large in any street or place of public resort; (ii) the operation is conducted at such times as the streets and places of public resort are likely to be unfrequented; and (iii) any poison which is not eaten by the dog or dogs to which it was thrown is recovered. It also states that, "No licensing authority shall incur any civil liability for any dog destroyed in accordance with this section."

    To further explain, a "street" means and includes any highway, and any road, bridge, lane, mews, footway, square, court, alley, passage, whether a thoroughfare or not, and any part of any such highway, road, bridge, lane, mews, footway, square, court, alley or passage.

    Pet owners are advised to heed the law as it pertains to the proper containment of their animals or risk losing their pets.
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