Governor bitten in attack on the beach
Out-of-control dogs are being targeted following an attack on Cayman Islands Governor Helen Kilpatrick and continued attacks on endangered blue iguanas at the Queen Elizabeth II Botanic Park.
Baited traps have been laid in the area close to where the governor was attacked, near her home on Seven Mile Beach, as she tried to save her cat from being mauled. The governor was treated for minor injuries at the scene last week.
Meanwhile, a gun club sniper has been called in at the botanic park to target stray dogs, which have killed at least five blue iguanas there in the past month. The National Trust plans to build a fence around the park at a cost of more than $100,000 to keep dogs out.
Animal welfare advocates say the attack on the governor and the incidents at the park are just the latest high-profile examples of a significant ongoing problem with abandoned dogs, and they have called for more resources for animal control and public education.
The governor’s office confirmed Wednesday that she had received “minor injuries” in the dog attack.
“It is believed that this is one of several recent incidents involving the same dogs,” a spokeswoman at her office said.
Adrian Estwick, director of agriculture, said baited traps have been placed in the area in an effort to capture the stray dogs.
He said the Department of Agriculture responds similarly to all reports of dog attacks, no matter who the victim is or where the incident takes place.
He said dealing with the broader issue of out-of-control dogs would involve “education, education, education” and outreach to pet owners to remind them of their responsibilities to keep their animals secured.
Lesley Agostinelli of Cayman Animal Rescue Enthusiasts, which is launching a school-based education program on responsible pet ownership, said outreach needs to be combined with better enforcement. She acknowledged that the Agriculture Department is understaffed and believes a nongovernment organization, similar to the Society for the Protection of Animals, would be best placed to handle the issue.
“If we want safer communities, we need to take a look at our animal control policies. I think the laws are adequate. I don’t think the enforcement is there, and I don’t think there is enough support for responsible pet ownership, particularly in under-served areas.”
She said trapping or shooting dogs would only provide “Band-Aid” solutions in response to specific incidents. She warned that similar incidents would continue to occur unless action is taken to clamp down on puppy mills, to ensure dogs are licensed, spayed and neutered, and to prevent people from dumping unwanted pets.
Gina Ebanks-Petrie, director of the Department of Environment, said feral animals are a growing menace for endangered species like the blue iguana.
She said under a new policy, dogs found in the botanic park would be shot, following the recent attacks on the small population of blue iguanas.
John Lawrus, who runs the park, said a qualified gunman is patrolling the site at different times in an effort to catch the dogs.
In a letter sent to residents in the area this week, Ms. Ebanks-Petrie warned pet owners to keep their animals out of the park.
She stated, “The Blue Iguana Recovery Program has worked through challenging circumstances to bring back the population from near extinction and at the rate that these animals are being killed, there will be no breeding animals remaining in the park in a few weeks.”
Karen Ford, a warden with the Blue Iguana Recovery Program, said there are around 40 blue iguanas in the botanic park and an estimated 900 island-wide. She said wild dogs in the park are a significant threat to the stability of the population.