* Photo by Ras Mykkal. Advocate: Jack Castle, pictured with his award-winning Rottweilers, is in talks with Government about lifting the ban on certain breeds of dogs — and Environment Minister Glenn Blakeney tells us he’s listening.
* Photo by Ras Mykkal. Advocate: Jack Castle, pictured with his award-winning Rottweilers, is in talks with Government about lifting the ban on certain breeds of dogs — and Environment Minister Glenn Blakeney tells us he’s listening.
A ban on dangerous dog breeds, including Rottweilers and Pit Bulls, could be lifted.

Breeders are in talks with Government over potential changes to the law that could allow them to bring in banned dogs, under strict licensing conditions.

They are recommending that a committee, including representatives from the island's dog clubs, a vet, dog warden and a representative from the department of environment, is set up to review applications to bring banned dogs into the country and make decisions on a case-by-case basis.

The committee would also be responsible for helping to introduce and regulate new rules controlling the ownership of all breeds of dog.

A list of suggestions -including a requirement for anyone wishing to own a dog to enroll on a training course - has been drawn up by representatives of several dog clubs, including the Dog Working Club and the Bermuda Kennel Club.

The Department of Environment is taking their views seriously. Minister Glenn Blakeney said he was committed to reviewing the legislation and welcomed the feedback.

Jack Castle, who keeps and shows Rottweilers in Bermuda and overseas, said responsible owners had been unfairly punished by the ban, introduced six years ago amid concerns that some breeds were being used for dog fighting.

Mr. Castle has three Rottweilers in Bermuda that were bought before the ban was introduced. He has two others, acquired after the ban, that he keeps in California and shows in the U.S.

The dock worker, also a football coach, was given dispensation to bring his U.S. based dogs into Bermuda for the All Breed Club's series of international shows last month. His top dog, Tatunka won three 'best in show' awards.

The dogs were flown back to California yesterday.

But Castle, who has also won shows in the U.S. and Canada, wants to keep them in Bermuda. He said he trained his dogs to competition standard and they were no danger to the public.

And he believes there are many other responsible owners like him who are capable of owning dogs deemed to be dangerous.

"Our proposal is that we have a dog committee that will police this. We have come up with some proposals that would allow people to get breeds that are on the banned list if they agree to certain conditions."

The committee would be responsible, in conjunction with Government, for granting licenses for banned dogs and ensuring the conditions of the license are adhered to.

The proposed conditions include providing a secure, escape-proof enclosure and attending a six-week training and socialization course within the first six months of acquiring the dog. Owners with any history of irresponsible ownership would have their applications rejected.

The draft proposals contain a host of other suggestions including regulations and a code of ethics for breeders.

Mr. Castle, who has been showing dogs for 17 years, said the dog ban had severely impacted him personally.

"It has hindered me because I am unable to travel back and forth with my Rottweilers to shows that I was very active in."

He said breeding dogs took a good grasp of genetics and 'lines' that he had worked on for years had been lost when the ban was introduced.

He said dog owners had been unhappy with the ban from the moment it was introduced because it unfairly impacted responsible owners. They would rather see stricter controls for all breeds of dog.

But he said the breeders wanted to do more than complain. They want to help to put a better policy in place. They have had initial meetings with the ministry for environment and sports and further meetings are expected over the next few months.

Mr. Blakeney said: "The ministry is committed to reviewing legislation that impacts the current "dog policy", which restricts local breeding and or the importation of various breeds.

"Relevant feedback has been invited from local stake-holders, such as breeder's and dog enthusiasts that enter and show 'restricted/banned' breeds in Dog Show Competitions.

"The ministry will also determine, based upon a thorough review, if any other proposed changes to the current laws warrant consideration."