Cruelty to animals: when is Jamaica going to enact and implement stronger laws to protect them?

A kick, a blow, a “chop” with a machete. For some Jamaicans, these are commonplace ways of dealing with unwanted animals.

It is not only painful and heartbreaking. Cruelty to animals is not something we should take lightly at all, as a society. It is a reflection of our humanity and our ability to deal with conflict and show love and empathy – towards each other, as well as innocent animals that cannot defend themselves.

I wrote about our “rescue dogs” last year for Global Voices, when 144 Jamaican “Royal Caribbean Terriers” (i.e. mongrels) were flown out to Canada from Jamaica, to new homes. Photos later emerged of the dogs happily wearing woolly coats, out for a walk in the snow.

A lovely Jamaican rescue dog being checked out before flying to a new home in Canada. (Photo: Jamaicans.com)

No one can deny that Jamaica is currently drowning, as wave after wave of violence engulfs us. As veterinarian Dr. St. Aubyn Bartlett notes in this overview, “animal welfare and human health and welfare are intrinsically linked.” Those who are cruel to animals may well behave similarly towards humans, including vulnerable children, seniors, their spouses, without giving it a second thought. Don’t forget, some of the world’s most notorious serial killers, including Jeffrey Dahmer and Ted Bundy, abused and tortured animals when they were growing up. And what about the family members, including children, who witness such cruel acts on a daily basis – how does it affect them psychologically? I know, the roots of violence are many and complex, but we need to face up to some of these sad facts. Including cruelty to animals.

Founder of the Montego Bay Animal Haven, Tammy Browne, started a petition to the Jamaican Government, stressing:

The animal cruelty laws in Jamaica are in need of serious reviewing and updating. Penalties and fines need to enforced. Education within schools, dog ownership and registration. Mandatory spay and neutering unless a registered breeder.

The Cruelty to Animals Act dates back to 1904 – yes, it’s nearly 120 years old! It was amended in 1995 to increase the fines to a paltry J$1,000. There is also the Dogs Liable for Injury Act, which goes back even further to 1877 – and after around 150 years it has never been amended. This is how much priority we place on animal welfare in Jamaica.

I don’t want to post horrific and disturbing photos. You have probably seen them already – and you have most likely seen some sad sights on the streets of Kingston: sick, half-starved dogs, in particular, dragging themselves along the sidewalk. In fact, we see them daily; they are almost part of the landscape. When visitors see them (including one of our family members not long ago) they are very distressed, because they also see it as a reflection of something very wrong in Jamaican society. Neglect is a terrible form of abuse, in itself. It certainly is not a “good look” to people who are unaccustomed to seeing such depravity. We should face up to this problem, ourselves, and do something about it.

Our lawmakers need to do something about it, as a matter of urgency. Strong laws need to be enacted and implemented. Archaic legislation with almost non-existent fines, and virtually no enforcement, do not suffice. Updating these laws, along with a robust public education programme, and holding people accountable for acts of cruelty, would go a long way towards bringing healing to our society.

If we care for and nurture our animals, our homes and communities would be kinder, more compassionate places. Isn’t that what we need, so very badly?

If you would like to support a Jamaican animal protection organisation or adopt an unwanted animal, you may contact Montego Bay Animal Haven or the Jamaica Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (JSPCA) – which states as one of its major goals “to amend the 1965 Cruelty to Animals Act & the Pound Laws. Increasing the fines to the levels that will constitute a real deterrent, and give us more authority to take suitable action against those who inflict harm, pain or suffering on animals.”

The lovely Lulu, a rescue dog full of love – and a bit of a diva. (My photo)

3 thoughts on “Cruelty to animals: when is Jamaica going to enact and implement stronger laws to protect them?

  1. Emma, you have written many very inspiring and useful articles, but this one has got to be one of the very bbest. Much needed.

    Like

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