The death of an 11-year-old girl in Vistabella on Thursday was a horror story for the child’s family and a warning to the nation as a whole.
Following the increase in dog attacks in the 90s and a delay of more than 12 years, the Dog Control Act was proclaimed in 2013.
The legislation, modeled after the UK’s Dangerous Dogs Act, replaced that country’s Dangerous Dogs Act (2000) and established several requirements for the ownership and handling of dogs considered animals of concern. The law specifies six breeds as Class A dogs, subject to specific controls under the law.
The dog that killed Rachel Bhagwandeen at the house she was visiting was an American Bully dog mix, an animal that comes under class A. The other breeds are American pit bull terrier, American Staffordshire terrier, Dogo Argentino, the Japanese Tosa and the Fila Brasileiro. .
Class A breeds are renowned for their aggressiveness and some were bred for hunting. They are strong animals, the result of decades of genetic matching and breeding for purpose. Most are also known for their loyalty and ability to socialize in a family setting.
By law, these animals are supposed to be microchipped, covered by personal injury and death insurance, and managed under circumstances that specify their care and housing to keep the dogs and the public safe.
Among these requirements are a minimum size for fences, mandatory muzzles and lead control during public outings.
The law encourages the creation of an environment in which dog lovers can raise and enjoy their pets, but with public safety in mind.
American Bully dogs are offered for sale locally for prices ranging from $2,000 to $4,000 both privately and on Facebook, with no identifiable state controls in place.
A law is effective only insofar as it is applied and questions must be answered.
In the nine years since the Dog Control Act was proclaimed, has only one controlled dog in this country been microchipped?
Is there a division of the police department with the equipment and a warrant to check these microchips?
Has the license fee of $1,000 for each Class A dog already been collected?
Has a controlled dog owner ever been certified as trained to control their pet?
Have any of these animals been trained in accordance with legal requirements?
What capacity do the police have, beyond their specialist canine unit, to identify breeds and ask informed and relevant questions about the breeds of dogs checked in order to enforce the law fairly and effectively?
Until these issues are resolved, the act remains toothless, unlike the dogs it was meant to control.