Dog Control Act and Belize Law
SAGA Assists in the Enforcement of Laws for Stray and Nuisance Dogs
Every year rumours of a dog ‘eradication’ fly around San Pedro. Pet owners, conservationists, locals, immigrants and tourists all get very upset that dogs may be poisoned and letters are written to the Town Board and local newspapers asking for an alternative solution. The good news is that SAGA Humane Society and the San Pedro Town Board have come to an agreement that will be great news for the people and animals of San Pedro and avoid the need of future eradications via strychnine poisoning.
SAGA Humane Society and the San Pedro Town Board have worked together informally for several years to try to address the problems caused by irresponsible dog owners in San Pedro. These are the owners who allow their
dogs to wander on the streets, causing a nuisance to others. This irresponsible behaviour leads to complaints to the Town Board and they have no option but to do their job and deal with nuisance animals. Fortunately, the vast majority of dog owners in San Pedro are responsible and will welcome this new initiative to make San Pedro a happier place for people and pets.
SAGA Humane Society has been given the authority by the San Pedro Town Board to act as Dog Catcher and Pound for the San Pedro area and to enforce the Control of Dogs Act 2000 (Chapter 153). SAGA Humane Society will be working hand in hand with the Town Board, Police Department and Health Department to collect strays, investigate reports of nuisance, neglect and cruelty and set fines for those in breach of the law. Section 15 of the Control of Dogs Act 200, allows the collection of fees and fines and it is hoped that by enforcing this law, San Pedro will become a cleaner and happier place for all. These laws have been in existence for many years, but because San Pedro is growing in population and the complaints about irresponsible dog owners are increasing,
they must now be properly enforced. By introducing fines, these will act as a deterrent while helping SAGA to fund this service to the San Pedro community.
Pet owners and non pet owners have to suffer with the problems caused by the minority of irresponsible dog owners. Dogs owned by irresponsible owners foul in public places causing a mess and health hazard, they chase bicycles and golf carts, turn over garbage cans and bark and fight in the night. What many don’t know is that dogs are not allowed to be wandering in the streets during the day or night and should be safely and humanely secured by their owners.
According to the Dogs Control Act 2000, which is the law in Belize, dogs that disturb the peace by persistent barking, dogs that are loose in the street, dogs that chase people and dogs allowed to toilet on public or private property – unless the mess is immediately removed by the owner – are all considered a nuisance and may be seized and the owners may be fined. If your dog is seen loose in town, on the street or in a public place without a collar or without an owner present, it may be considered a stray and picked up by the Dog Catcher.
If you have a female dog that is in heat in a public place and she is not on a lead or being carried, she may be seized. If your dog is suffering from illness or injury and is not being carried or on a lead, it may also be seized.
It is an offence for a dog owner to allow their dog to be loose in any street or public place and dogs must be under the owner or handlers immediate control if they take their dog off their property. This means that owners should have a collar and lead with them when walking their dogs and not allow their dog to become a nuisance or disturbance on walks, supervising them closely at all times.
SAGA Humane Society is already authorised to charge fees for the return of wandering dogs to their owners. Right now, if SAGA is forced to seize a dog that has been neglected or allowed to become a nuisance or stray, the owner will have three days to collect the dog and pay a fine, which will be $50 + $10 per day. After that time, the dog will be owned by SAGA Humane Society and may be rehomed or, if there is not sufficient space at SAGA’s shelter or the dog has been assessed as not adoptable, it may be euthanased humanely. A more comprehensive set of fines regarding owners who allow dogs to wander and create nuisance, as well as for owner who abuse or neglect their dogs, is being introduced in accordance with details set forth in the Dogs Control Act and will
be published and enforced by the beginning of 2012. Posters and articles will be appearing around San Pedro and in the paper advising the public of the specific procedures and fee schedules.
SAGA Humane Society is appealing to the public and local dog owners to help them enforce these laws, which are designed to maintain public health, reduce nuisance and to protect dogs from cruelty and neglect. Your support will help to prevent the Town Board from being forced to resort to eradications with poison to control loose dogs and the deal with nuisance they create. Please remember that SAGA Humane Society provides this important public service with no financial support from the government.
If you have any questions about the laws relating to dogs or animal welfare or if you would like to contact SAGA about animal cruelty or neglect, please call SAGA on 226 3266.