A doggone serious discussion


Friday, August 24, 2018

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The tragic, sorrowful news of a gentleman who lost his life when he was attacked by dogs in his community has brought up the question of dogs and their ownership. This kind of argument has come up from time to time and this occasion it centres on whether dangerous dog breeds (rottweilers and pit bulls in particular) should be banned here.

Jamaica Observer reporter Kimone Francis this week sought responses from a small number of people who facilitated her in revealing their views and opinions in Wednesday's edition of this publication. Of the seven men and one woman who had responded, most felt it was not necessary to ban the dogs as they were a means of protecting life and property. It has been felt also that these canines should be properly trained and kept securely, to prevent other incidents.

One of the respondents added more information to the discussion about the laws which are applied to dogs and their owners. The gentleman referred to the Dogs (liability for injuries by) Act of 1877 which sets out who is responsible for damages or injury caused to others by a dog. There is also the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act which dates back to 1904. That law, which seeks to protect animals from cruelty and abuse, was last amended in 1995 to adjust the fines for dog and cock-fighting to $1,000 for the offender.

In earlier times, the violent game of cock-fighting was deemed to be so cruel that the Government of the time sought to ensure that it was no longer encouraged or practised. I doubt if cock-fighting still happens here in Jamaica. We have better use for chickens in these hard times. But dog-fighting still happens in countries close to us.

People in the veterinary industry have been asking for the laws to be brought up to date. A member of the Jamaica Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (JSPCA) has said that banning particular breeds of dogs would not necessarily prevent a similar incident from happening again. It is the owner's duty to be responsible for their animals. The opinion of those interviewed was that dog owners should do what is right. One of the individuals interviewed said: “The owners just have to train the dogs and not do bad things to get them aggravated to always attack people.”

Now that there is public discussion, it should be noted that some dogs are carefully maintained by their owners. Wise individuals can make use of the expertise of the JSPCA, a well-established organisation, or a veterinarian, in order to get advice on how to handle their pets. The JSPCA does not always have as much support as it wishes to ensure that animals are well looked after. Its staff and volunteers are always doing their best to ensure that the work of the organisation is maintained so that animals and owners avoid any acts of cruelty.

In the current arguments about dog ownership, there are some who are proud to acclaim the “pedigree” of their pets. There are some people who treat their dogs like “beauty queens” with all levels of care and pampering.

After the joke is over, there is serious work to be done about the treatment of dogs in our country. In some homes, pets are a welcome addition to the family. The value of pets has long been promoted. Children in a family that owns pets learn compassion and responsibility. Pets are a welcome source of companionship for those who may need friendship. There should always be understanding however, that they should still be handled with care, as animals can also have less-than-desired reactions to some situations.

ANOTHER REPORT which caught some attention this week is the story of an elderly Jamaican residing in Florida who “buck up” in the law when he and a raccoon had it out over some mangoes. It seems that the man had trapped a raccoon which had been eating his precious fruit. It is reported that he set the animal alight. A neighbour called the police and the senior citizen was arrested and charged for animal cruelty. He soon found out that the authorities over there do not take kindly to the mistreatment of animals.

BULLA GET A BULLA! Oh dear, oh dear! The noble bulla has lost its worth and is being cast forth! What is this? The bulla will now be amiss! The beloved baked treat, known in elevated circles as a ginger cake, is to be removed from schools due to its high sugar content.

The bulla has been a staple in schools for many years. Some were soft and tasty, while others were more fit for use as a missile between friends at play. The bulla has a long history with education. It has been said of the uneducated – “If you write him name on a bulla, him would eat it and never know!” The relationship between school and the famed pastry will shortly be no more.

The minister of education made the revelation at the Jamaica Teachers' Association Conference earlier in the week. Minister of Health Christopher Tufton, speaking at the same event, said: “The ministries of education and health will have to get all the critical stakeholders… to help us provide the guidance necessary to our young people as the first line of defence to combat lifestyle ailments.”

I am all for our children being taught how to take care of their health, we all could learn that lesson, but what is school life without a bulla, especially as the morning sugar-sweetened drink has lost its way? I can only hope that bakers and nutritionists will come up with revised recipes in order to save the Bulla. Fare thee well, dear Bulla… it is hoped that we shall one day meet again.

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