Dog owner breaking law

On behalf of the Cayman Islands Department of Agriculture I seek to clarify certain misconceptions and inaccuracies contained in a letter written by Shirley Ware and printed in the Cayman Net News 20 November.

I must first note that the department and staff fully appreciate the emotions involved whenever a person faces issues relating to a beloved pet; we are always sympathetic to these situations.

However, our actions and responses are very clearly directed and guided by the laws and regulations that govern the Cayman Islands.

In the particular instance to which Ms ware’s letter refers, the exportation and importation of animal, decisions must comply with the Animals Law (2003 Revision) and its attendant regulations.

This law establishes the mechanisms by which animals can be imported into and exported from Cayman in order to protect the health and safety of local animal and human populations.

Conditions are clearly set out and are readily available to the public at the DoA.

That said, the department has long recognised that situations may arise where an animal needs to urgently leave the Islands for medical treatment and thus be unable to comply within the stipulated timeframe, with normal export/re-import health requirements. Accordingly, the DoA does have a mechanism in place by which, once very specific procedures and protocols are adhered to, both on- and off-island, a special exemption can be granted, waiving some of the regular health requirements and thereby allowing the animal to travel and re-enter.

When the DoA received an inquiry on Tuesday, 13 November, regarding the need to export an ill animal for treatment, information relating to the required export and re-entry medical treatment mechanisms was relayed to the inquiring party.

However, contrary to Ms Ware’s statement, DoA staffers cannot issue verbal export or import approvals, whether in person or by telephone.

All export or import permissions or permits issued by the department are written documents, which if granted under the law, must be in response to a client’s written application.

In particular, special exemption cases must be accompanied by several specific documents and while the DoA did receive some incomplete support documentation regarding this matter, to date we have not received a completed application form from Ms Ware for her dog, nor have we received the balance of required support documentation.

The matter of Ms Ware’s dog was further compounded when the attending private veterinary clinic confirmed that the animal is a pit bull cross.

Under the Cayman Islands Animals Law (2003 Revision) and its Regulations, this is classified as a prohibited dog and as such it is an offence under the law to possess one unless it was registered under the regulations during a specified period, which ended in June 2003.

Since this animal is currently only 10 months old, it is too young for the exemption to be applicable and in keeping with the regulations, as a prohibited animal, its importation to the Cayman Islands is also expressly banned. Ms Ware was accordingly advised that if her dog left the Island, the DoA could not and cannot issue a permit for the animal’s re-entry into Cayman, as to do so would contravene a law that the department is mandated to uphold and enforce.

The department’s veterinary officer who relayed this information is also far from being the ‘cold and rude’ person to which Ms Ware alludes in her letter. On the contrary, he is a seasoned and experienced professionally who sadly, is at times required to be the bearer of bad news.

While Ms Ware was understandably very emotional at the time, this officer strove both to explain the realities of the situation to her and to outline a number of options that might prove viable given her circumstances. He also did indicate that if Ms Ware was convinced that overseas treatment was the only life-saving possibility, then the department would approve the export once all necessary documentation was supplied, but that the animal could not then legally re-enter the Island.

In closing, I emphasise that at no time did the DoA refuse to grant an export permit for this animal – that was an impossibility since no completed application requesting such a permit was ever received.

Further, Ms ware is confused regarding the issue of spaying and or neutering any animal classified as a prohibited dog; while this is a condition that relates to registration and possession, it has nothing to do with the importation/entry of these animals into the Cayman Islands, which is expressly prohibited, regardless of the spay or neuter status.

Whether or not the animal is a pet or fighting dog is also of no relevance under the law. If a breed or mixed breed animal is classified as prohibited, it is this classification alone that makes it subject to the provisions of the law and the regulations.

Finally, I must point out that despite Ms Ware’s accusations of insensitivity and lack of compassion levelled at the department, the DoA to this point has avoided further compounding her obvious emotional distress over her pet’s poor health.

We have not, as yet, taken any action concerning the fact that by possessing this dog, Ms Ware is herself in contravention of the law and this is so, regardless, of her professional status in the community.

Dr. Alfred Benjamin – Chief Agricultural and Veterinary Officer