Out of more than 100 Department of Agriculture reports of animal cruelty and neglect cases in the past two years, one case has resulted in charges being filed in Summary Court.
The Cayman Compass recently filed a freedom of information request for all Department of Agriculture paperwork regarding reports of animal cruelty and neglect in 2016 and 2017, and 105 cases were found to fit those parameters.
Seventy-five of those reports centered on cases involving dogs, and 18 of them were reports about alleged mistreatment of horses. Department employees confiscated animals on 12 occasions.
In one case, involving a neglected horse, the Department of Agriculture considered prosecuting the accused owner but elected not to pursue charges when the animal in question was signed into the department’s custody.
The one case set forward for prosecution by the department over the last two years involved a dog named Rufus who was mistakenly burned by his owner while he was trying to remove external parasites. In that case, the owner put Pine-Sol on his dog’s back and subsequently pleaded guilty to cruelty to an animal. The case remains before the court.
There is also another animal cruelty case currently in the court system, but that case was handled by the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service and not the Department of Agriculture. That case, which involved a dog named Dora that was allegedly set aflame by its owner, was on Monday’s Summary Court docket and has a trial date scheduled for March 15.
In most of the Department of Agriculture cases, a member of the public would make a report and an animal welfare officer would look into it.
On several occasions, the department’s animal welfare officer was given reports of poor living conditions for animals and arrived on the scene only to find everything in lawful order. But in others, the officer was unable to correct the situation or opted to ask for better compliance in the future.
In the first report of 2016, for instance, the department was told by a concerned neighbor that one house had “two pups in the yard and the occupants have been seen beating them with a stick.”
The animal welfare officer drove to the scene and attempted to clarify the living conditions for the dogs, but he was unable to make contact with the residents and left without resolving the situation.
“[The animal welfare officer] signed by blowing the horn but no one came out,” according to the Jan. 4 report’s account of action taken. “The yard appears to be used for some illegal activity. The dogs seemed OK.”
Two months later, in March 2016, the department was informed of a case of a dog killed by paraquat poisoning. The department responded by telling the complainant to file a report with the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service, but no report was filed and there was no follow-up taken by the department.
This incident was one of several confirmed or suspected poisonings that did not result in the offender being identified or official charges being brought.
Other situations to which the animal welfare officer responded involved complaints about animals, including dogs and horses, being tied up in yards with no access to shade or water, dogs with serious illnesses and animals suspected to be malnourished.
Actions taken by the animal welfare officer included issuing warnings to the animals’ owners; obtaining custody of the animal and turning the animal over to a new owner or rescue organization such as the Humane Society; or having the animal euthanized.
For example, in July 2016, an anonymous caller notified the department that a friend had a sick dog in dire need of attention.
The animal welfare officer observed that the animal had a serious skin condition that warranted treatment. The dog owner signed a surrender form and euthanasia form, and the accused “was severely warned that if this happens again” that he would be prosecuted.
In September 2017, the department received a report of a dog that was reportedly dying next to a dumpster. The animal control officer went to the scene and was told the owner was on his way to pick up the dog. Five hours later, the dog was still in the same condition and still in the same location.
The officer went back to the scene and logged the dog’s condition, noting that “the animal had difficulties breathing, could not move and was unresponsive when touched.”
The dog owner was called again, and he said he would get the dog after work. But after the dog’s condition was described to him, he asked for it to be euthanized and agreed to pay the fee. The department was able to comply with that request, and the dog was put down without any further inquiry or repercussion.
Back in 2014, the Cayman Compass made an open records request to find out how many dogs were euthanized by the Department of Agriculture on an annual basis. Between 2010 and 2013, the department euthanized an average of around 600 dogs and cats a year.