“This dog was basically chained to a tree and starved to death. If the police hadn’t been called to the house for a search warrant, the other dog would probably have died too.
“This is the worst case of neglect I have seen in the Cayman Islands and it should be brought to the courts and prosecuted.”
— Jason Jairam, shelter manager, Cayman Islands Humane Society
Police officers raided a home in Prospect on Friday, looking for a criminal suspect. In addition to their man, they found a dog — chained to a tree, sun-beaten and starving, next to another dog that had not survived the same conditions.
The incident should serve as Cayman’s “Michael Vick moment” (an allusion to the former NFL star’s conviction for dogfighting); a badly needed wake-up call to the country of the prevalence of barbaric animal cruelty, and, furthermore, that the casual torture of dogs is just one category of innocent suffering that we should not allow to continue to occur.
The case of “Lennie” (the puppy who lived) and his unnamed companion (who did not) illustrates three important points about the broader nature of crime in Cayman.
First, the connection between animal cruelty and criminality in general: The dog was discovered at a home that was harboring a fugitive from justice. Scientific studies have shown a correlation between disregard for animal life (or laws governing the treatment of animals) and disrespect for human life.
Second, the culture of silence and fear: As Mr. Jairam said, the neighbors surely would have seen the two dogs chained to the tree, starving for days or weeks, and yet nobody called to report the cruelty or otherwise did anything about it. Similarly, time and time again, when violent crimes occur in full view of multiple bystanders, police and prosecutors are consistently unable to produce witnesses who care enough, or are brave enough, to testify in court.
Third, the non-enforcement of our country’s laws: Mr. Jairam said in his 10 years with the Humane Society, “I have seen all kinds of abuse, but I have never seen or heard of anyone being prosecuted.” In a letter that appears elsewhere on this page, 21-year Cayman resident Bill Stevenson writes that he’s not aware of one arrest or prosecution for animal cruelty despite its occurrence being “common knowledge.” Likewise, we at the Compass have investigated the issue and have not been able to discover one instance of the successful prosecution of offenses against the Animals Law.
The second and third points are inextricably linked. There is a huge price to pay for silence in the presence of wrongdoing. At minimum, it’s the perpetuation of the misconduct. In Cayman, silence is a plague — among society, the business community and even our leadership — on issues ranging from domestic violence, to shameful neglect of the elderly, to mistreatment of domestic workers, to corruption and dysfunction in government.
Dogs, other animals, and also many humans who are suffering do not have the ability or capacity to speak up for themselves. Citizens who do have a voice have an obligation not just to speak up when they see something heinous, but to speak out publicly — and not to stop until something has been done about it.