Out of 225 cases investigated by animal control and welfare officers at the Department of Agriculture this year, one is moving forward with criminal charges.
The statistics, released under the Freedom of Information Law, include reports of animal cruelty and neglect, as well as reports of dangerous or stray dogs, and involve farm animals as well as domestic pets.
Julie Arnall-Murray, a volunteer at the Cayman Islands Humane Society for 30 years, filed the FOI request after becoming frustrated with the apparent lack of enforcement action from the department, despite a significant number of high-profile abuse cases this year.
She said she was disappointed but not surprised to see that less than 1 percent of reported cases had resulted in charges.
“I was not surprised by it, but I wanted it on paper,” she said.
“The statistics show a complete lack of enforcement. The volunteers pick up the pieces, but nobody seems to give a hoot about enforcing the law.”
Incidents reported to the Cayman Compass this year have included a dog that was chained to a tree and starved to death; a dog whose charred body was found dumped on a construction site; and another dog, with a tumor the size of a golf ball, that was said to have been kept in a cage without access to medical care.
All those cases were reported to the Department of Agriculture, according to animal welfare charities.
The Freedom of Information request asked for details of all reports of negligence or cruelty reported in the last year to welfare officer Erik Bodden and the number that led to court action.
The Department of Agriculture response states, “Over the course of the year the animal control and welfare services of the DOA have investigated a total of 225 reports and the Animal Welfare Officer Erik Bodden has investigated a total of 123 of these reports ….
“Standard operating procedures within the Animal Control and Welfare Services of the DOA are to work with those clients to resolve those issues reported and observation officers see on location this has been successful in most cases.
“It is only one case that is now moving forward with prosecution [charges] relating to a companion animal, namely a horse kind.” This prosecution is not believed to be connected to the sexual assaults on ponies at the Equestrian Center, which is being investigated by police.
In a separate FOI response to a specific inquiry about the burned dog found on Marina Drive and reported to the Department of Agriculture in November, the department indicates it advised the caller to call the police and has not since received any calls for assistance from officers.
“When enforcement and/or prosecution is necessary, the department works closely with the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service,” it states.
According to the Animals Law, the duties of the Department of Agriculture animal welfare officer include preventing cruelty and suffering to animals. Their responsibilities include investigating complaints, collecting evidence and writing reports for use in criminal proceedings and testifying in court when necessary, the law states.
As a Humane Society volunteer, Ms. Arnall-Murray said she frequently sees horrific cases of abuse.
“The shelter reports cases every month to the DOA,” she said.