The charred carcass of a dog found dumped on a construction site in Prospect has prompted new concern about the level of animal abuse in the Cayman Islands and calls for the Department of Agriculture to do more to enforce the law on animal cruelty.
“The Animals Law is a really good piece of legislation and if it was enforced, the Cayman Islands would be a pet paradise.”
A grisly image of the blackened body of the pit bull mix, lying in the marl, was sent to the Humane Society by concerned workers who made the discovery last week.
Jason Jairam, shelter manager, said it was not clear whether the dog was dead or alive when it was burned. He said the find was possibly linked to dog fighting, but it was difficult to tell without further investigation.
The incident is the latest in a number of high-profile animal abuse cases this year, including sexual assaults on ponies at the equestrian center and a dog that was chained to a tree and starved to death.
Animal welfare charities say Cayman’s animal protection laws are very good. They just need to be enforced.
Now frustrated members of the public are calling on government to do more to investigate and prosecute offenders.
Concerned dog lover Taura Ebanks has started a new group, Cayman Animal’s Watchdog, to encourage people to report animal abuse. The group has also started a petition to present to Minister of Agriculture Kurt Tibbetts asking for proper enforcement of the animal laws.
Ms. Ebanks said several charities are doing good work to rescue and re-home neglected animals, pay for spay and neuter operations, and educate pet owners and children on how to properly look after an animal.
She said the community is clearly doing everything in its power to help, but is not seeing enough enforcement action from government.
“There have been really extreme cases of abuse and neglect leading to the death of animals and nothing is being done. People have stopped reporting to the Department of Agriculture because they feel that nothing will be done.”
She said there is not even a clear and obvious way to report animal abuse.
The petition states, “There continues to be animals used in dog fights, some animals are overbred, starved, imprisoned within small confines, restricting any basic level of adequate movement, burned on property lots, sexually assaulted, tied to death trees for their miserable lives to be carried out without access to basic food, clean water or basic shelter …
“There is no more time, nor should there be, [for] the continued tolerance of people turning a ‘blind eye’ or the Cayman Islands Department of Agriculture not taking the basic steps to do everything possible to enforce the animal welfare laws.
“Simply put, not enough is being done by our Cayman Islands Government to protect and enforce the existing laws to protect animals,” the petition states.
The petition calls for government to ensure the public has an obvious way to report cases of abuse or neglect and ensure the Department of Agriculture or other authorities take steps to locate abusers, investigate allegations and follow up on incidents once they are reported.
Director of Agriculture Adrian Estwick said he believed his department was doing enough to investigate animal cruelty cases. He said department vets had examined the ponies and handed their findings to the police. The case of the dog chained to a tree and starved was reported to the police rather than to his department.
He said the department had been informed of the burned dog but had referred the caller to the police and had not subsequently received a request from police to assist.
His department had referred a total of two cases of animal abuse for prosecution this year and seven in the last five years.
He added, “The DOA’s policy is to first educate and work with the owner to ensure acceptable animal welfare practices are followed and only then if education and cooperation fail to achieve the desired results to move to enforcement and prosecution.
“In cases of severe animal cruelty, neglect [or] abandonment, a stern approach would be taken. In cases where enforcement and/or prosecution are necessary, the DOA works closely with the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service.”
Lesley Agostinelli of Cayman Animal Rescue Enthusiasts said she understands the staffing and resource limitations the Department of Agriculture is facing. She said both the DOA and the various animal charities were overwhelmed at times. She agrees that more needs to be done to enforce the animal laws – either through partnerships with community groups or a new agency like the Society for the Protection of Animals.
She said there have been several reports of dead dogs, potentially linked to dog fighting, dumped on the dyke roads in Prospect over the past few years.
Through its work with schoolchildren, CARE sees youngsters who have been exposed to dog fighting and cock fighting and other types of animal abuse.
She said the legislation around animal welfare and regulation is already very good, but the resources and procedures are not there: “The Animals Law is a really good piece of legislation and if it was enforced, the Cayman Islands would be a pet paradise.”
She said coordination with organizations like CARE on micro-chipping pets and registering owners would be other methods of holding people accountable for their animals. She said investigating and dealing with animal abuse and related issues would likely help solve wider social issues as well.
“The correlation between human social issues and animal abuse is not something that is recognized enough,” she said. “When we see issues of neglect and abuse of animals, there are usually other criminal or social issues involved.”
Mr. Jairam, of the Humane Society, said the incident involving the burned dog was reported to him last week.
“What this person did was pretty gruesome,” he said. “They didn’t have to burn the dog like that. We don’t know if the dog was dead or alive when it was set on fire.”
Mr. Jairam said the Humane Society continues to receive frequent reports of animal abuse.
Last month, a dog was confiscated from a home in West Bay with a tumor the size of a golf ball on its eye. He said the dog was being kept in a tiny wire chicken cage and had not had access to veterinary care. That dog had to be euthanized.
The animal enforcement officer at the Department of Agriculture was informed of both incidents.
Legislator Winston Connolly was contacted for assistance for more government action. He said he was already working on a related motion to bring to the Legislative Assembly.
“I’d be happy to lend whatever little weight I may have to this issue,” he said. “I have been totally aghast about the sexual abuse of the horses also, and we definitely need to speak up as politicians on these heinous acts.”