A disturbing incident of animal cruelty occurred in Old Man Bay over the weekend where a pregnant dog was allegedly intentionally set ablaze by its owner. The incident was discovered Saturday morning when a neighbor to the alleged offender visited a local pet retail store in search of a medical remedy.
The witness to the offense asked the clerk at the pet store, Carly Smith, for a spray to treat the burns, and Ms. Smith asked about the severity of the injuries. When she was told that the dog, a pit bull mix, was burnt at the stomach, Ms. Smith immediately took action to find help.
“She told me, ‘The boy next door burnt the dog with fire,’” said Ms. Smith. “I asked her if it was an accident and she replied, ‘No, the boy was laughing.’ With the woman’s permission, I immediately contacted the Humane Society. I felt really strongly that it should be reported.”
The Humane Society contacted the police, and the family of the alleged offender brought the dog to Island Veterinary Services where the animal was treated. The dog survived and is in stable condition at the vet’s office, and she was spayed at the time of her procedure due to issues with her pregnancy.
When contacted over the weekend, a representative for the Cayman Islands Humane Society declined comment because the matter was being handled by the police. The Royal Cayman Islands Police Service declined comment Monday and said an official response would come on Tuesday. The Compass was unable to confirm if an arrest had been made.
Ms. Smith, who sounded the alarm, is anxiously awaiting news of the dog’s welfare.
“I have some questions for the authorities: Will the boy be charged? Will the dog be returned to that family? Will there be consequences for his actions?” asked Ms. Smith. “I’m not an activist of any kind. I don’t volunteer or work for any local charities, but I am a pet lover. You don’t have to be an animal lover of any kind to recognize that what he did was wrong and a crime was committed.”
The 2013 revision of the Cayman Islands Animals Law appears to spell out the punishment for animal cruelty. In Part IX – Protection of Animals and Wild Life – section 70.1 (A) states that “A person who beats, ill-treats, over-rides, over-drives, overloads, tortures, infuriates or terrifies an animal or causes or procures, or being the owner, permits any animal to be so used … commits an offence or cruelty and is liable on summary conviction to fine of four thousand dollars and to imprisonment for one year.”
Selina Tibbetts, a local attorney who wrote a university dissertation paper on animal cruelty in the Cayman Islands, said that cases have gone serially underreported. Ms. Tibbetts said she could find just one prosecution on record during the course of her research, but she cautioned that was years ago.
Ms. Tibbetts said that more recently, there was a spate of dog poisonings linked to the deadly weed-killer paraquat, but that she was unaware of whether any charges were brought in the matter.
“We hear about the cases, but we never hear of any real results in terms of prosecution,” she said.
“That’s not because the law doesn’t exist. They have the powers to investigate these matters as a criminal offense under the Animals Law. It’s just they’re (A) not being investigated properly, I would say, and (B) we have a social problem with people not wanting to provide evidence in these cases.
“These kind of animal cruelty cases are very serious, and they’re very indicative of something mentally being very wrong with the kind of person that commits these types of crimes. It’s scientifically proven – and there’s no doubt about it – that these people are a danger to society. What starts with animals often doesn’t end with animals. It results in crimes against children and against other people.”
Ms. Tibbetts went on to say that structurally, the police department and the Department of Agriculture need more resources to deal with issues of animal cruelty. And she said that it’s “unacceptable” that the animal cruelty laws exist but are not being enforced with resulting arrests and prosecutions.
Some cases are not able to be followed up due to lack of evidence, and others aren’t pursued due to witnesses not wanting to testify against their neighbors. Ms. Smith said she was willing to speak out because she did not want to allow the case to be another statistic of unreported animal cruelty.
“I’m proud to call Cayman my home, and I respect that it’s not my country. I respect the people, their faith and their laws,” said Ms. Smith. “The biggest fear among locals and ex-pats alike regarding reporting animal cruelty is retaliation and the chance that their immigration status will be revoked and permanent residency will not be extended. So the guilty continue to roam free.
“My question for those afraid to speak out: If a country kicks you out for speaking up about a crime – about cruelty and torture to another living being – is that the country you really want to live in?”