Dog Eradication to commence? Town Council says “No!”

The Island Newspaper, Ambergris Caye, Belize            Vol. 16, No. 43            November 2, 2006

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Several reports about unconfirmed discussions between Mayor Elsa Paz and her councilors about another round of dog poisonings have once more been heard through out the streets of San Pedro. This week, The San Pedro Sun called Mayor Paz to confirm whether this would be happening again. “NO” was her answer.

    Much concern came to San Pedro residents after a Channel 5 report about an eradication project carried out in Belize City. After the eradication was performed, the Belize City Humane Society had a meeting with the Belize City Council to address the issue. The following information was a result of the meeting: Belize City Deputy Mayor Wayne Usher commented, “The Humane Society had asked us right after the eradication of dogs that we had carried out, for a meeting, because they were very upset and understandably with the eradication that we had carried out earlier this month. They understood perfectly the real situation out there on our streets with the stray dog situation. They understood it, they want to work with us and we have come to some areas of agreement as to the way forward.”

    Both parties came to the agreement that the Belize City council will suspend further eradication of the stray dogs for the time being. In the meantime other options will be looked at among them selecting a particular constituency in the city, work with that area representative, sort of as a pilot project to try and control the stray dog population in that constituency and if that works, expansion of the program to other constituencies in the city will be taking place. “Secondly we are going to try another form of euthanasia, not strychnine. We will try another satisfactory and humane type of euthanasia, it will cost us a little bit more money but we are going to try and find sponsors for that. We will try and put down the dogs in a more humane way in that fashion. Then there’s another area that we will all be working towards, that is to collect the dogs, take them up to the pound and then put them down there, those that need to be put down and then we might be able to have people adopt these dogs after they’ve been treated and all that so, there’s a system and with all of that going on we will have a publicity campaign to inform the public what we are doing and how they can assist us in this problem as well,” Deputy Mayor Usher continued. Through his portfolios of public health, sanitation, and the environment, Deputy Mayor Usher says he plans to share these prospective measures with town councils of other municipalities with a view of adopting them.

    But if an eradication program was to be implemented on the island and Mayor Paz were to decide that before the high season kicks in stray dogs should be eliminated, is that something within her power to do? 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. However, stray-management practices on the island presently involve the use of the strychnine poisoned bait to euthanize roaming dogs, a method which presents significant risks to wildlife, pets and human health, particularly children, who can find, touch, and potentially ingest uneaten bait.

    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.

    However, many have to agree that yes the stray dog population might be getting out of hand but other ways of eradicating animals should be done. Strychnine poisoning has been banned by the World Health Organization for years now. Why? Because this particular drug causes an extremely inhumane and painful death. Humane Societies world wide have always taken the same approach – something has to be done to control the increase of stray dogs, however it is the way that they are put down that is the problem.

    This is where SAGA Humane Society helps our community. Through their various forms of education and the spay and neuter program, this problem can be alleviated greatly. SAGA conducts both spay and neuter at minimal or no cost. Anyone interested in getting more information about their program is asked to call their office at (226) 3266 or stop by at their Coconut Drive location.
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