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2003-01-30 16:32:05

Poor Stray Dogs Get International Attention

Tourist attacked

An international animal rights group, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), is increasing pressure for the government to resolve the stray dog problem.

PETA has posted a story on its website that says the Bahamas is no paradise for dogs. It portrays hungry and neglected dogs roaming the streets, many of them suffering from burns, broken limbs and openly untreated wounds.

An attack in Harbour Island on a tourist yesterday, underscored the problem.

Police say two "pot cake" dogs attacked Shannon Snyder, a Canadian visitor, while she walked along a beach on the island. Reports say the dogs bit Mrs. Snyder on her arms and legs. She was transported to Doctors Hospital in New Providence and treated for those wounds.

Daphna Nachminovitch, manager of the Domestic Animal and Issues Department for PETA in Norfolk, Virginia, said the group has for years been getting complaints concerning stray dogs in The Bahamas.

"I have with me correspondence between PETA and The Bahamas Government dating back to 1993 with regards to stray animals in The Bahamas and suggestions as to how best animals need the government to step in and try to dedicate funding and programmes to control the population that would ultimately benefit both the animals and the people."

Ms. Nachminovitch said the story posted on PETA's website did not come as a result of an isolated complaint on the stray dogs problem.

She said some tourists have called her organization claiming that their vacations were ruined after they saw suffering dogs roaming the streets.

While PETA officials insist that the stray dogs problem in The Bahamas is a serious one, Agriculture and Fisheries Minister V. Alfred Gray, whose ministry oversees the Canine Control Unit, said the situation is under control. It is not a crisis, he pointed out.

"The government is working feverishly to bring the stray dog situation to a manageable level," Mr. Gray told the Bahama Journal.

Nonetheless, Prime Minister Perry Christie and the Minister of Tourism Obie Wilchcombe could soon be flooded with calls from around the world because of the stray dog problem.

PETA has asked concerned people to call these government officials to complain about what they see as inhumane treatment of the animals.

Minister Gray called on the animal rights organization to get their facts right as it relates to stray dogs in the Bahamas. He said that the group should speak with the proper authorities before posting a story over the Internet.

"While they are concerned, I would like to suggest that they obtain the facts from those same persons whom they are asking the public to call, themselves, before publishing what they may have published because one call to the numbers that they have published should have given them the facts as it relates to stray dogs and what the government is doing," he said.

Ms. Nachminovitch admitted that her organization have not spoken to government officials regarding the stray dogs situation in several years. She was unaware that a new government was even in place.

Minister Gray said the government intends to review the Dog License Act (1942) to put in place stricter penalties to punish people who neglect their animals and allow them to roam the streets.

Dogs captured by the Canine Control Unit for up to six months without acknowledgment of ownership are permitted by law to be put to death.

Minister Gray said one challenge officials face in tackling the stray dog problem is that they are understaffed. He said when the government lifts its moratorium on hiring, the Unit will be targeted for additional employees.

The most recent statistics kept by his office show that there are 73,000 dogs owned by New Providence areas. An estimated 11,000 others walk the streets freely, according to the 2000 statistics.

By Yvette Rolle-Major, The Bahama Journal

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