Danger: Illegal breeding and poor handling of dogs is to blame for number of attacks, says a former animal welfare officer. *MCT photo
Danger: Illegal breeding and poor handling of dogs is to blame for number of attacks, says a former animal welfare officer. *MCT photo

Over one hundred dog bite victims are treated at the Emergency Department every year, the Bermuda Sun can reveal.

Authorities say they have launched 17 prosecutions against dog owners for offences ranging from injuries caused by their pets to illegal breeding in the last year.

The news comes after a shocking court case in which a 13-year-old boy was savagely mauled by his uncle’s Rottweiler.

The teenager underwent extensive surgery as a result of the injuries caused by Reuben Waldron’s dog.

Earlier this week Waldron, 43, of Warwick, was fined $7,000 for keeping the unlicensed dog and allowing it to cause injury to the young boy.

Senior Magistrate Archibald Warner ordered that the ‘dangerous’ dog be destroyed.

The case has put the spotlight on the irresponsibility of some dog owners in Bermuda, and what measures might prevent similar future attacks.

Debbie Masters, a former SPCA animal welfare officer, told the Sun she had heard of three ‘nasty dog attacks on children’ in the last couple of months.

Ms Masters, who has owned Rottweilers for 30 years, added: “This case shows that some people are just not in control of their dog.

“It comes down to the owner in most circumstances not the breed.

“I would like to see more basic dog obedience being taught.

“I know from my experience as an owner and a trainer you have to be very responsible with certain breeds of dog.

“Dogs that are tied to trees and left to their own devices are in my view more inclined to aggressive behaviour.”

The Department of Environmental Protection says prosecutions have been thwarted because of witness’ unwillingness to testify in court.

A spokesperson said: “Cases vary in their complexity and it is not uncommon to have a case become stymied because of witnesses’ unwillingness to testify in court.

“In the past 12 months alone, 17 cases have been sent for prosecution and additional cases are currently under investigation.

“Six dog owners were found guilty, nine have pled not guilty and are awaiting trial, and two cases were dismissed on account of witnesses declining to give testimony.”

But SPCA chairman, Andrew Madeiros, believes work still needs to be done by the authorities to enforce dog-licensing regulations.

He told the Sun: “There are a lot of rules and regulations and the legislation has the potential to be very effective.

“But the enforcement needs to be stepped up to deal with unlicensed dogs and the penalties handed down have to provide a deterrent to other dog owners.

“We need to get the message out that as dog owners we have a responsibility to other members of the community.”

In 2012, 116 men, women and children attended the Emergency Department with dog bite injuries.

A further 50 have needed treatment for similar injuries in the first half of 2013.

Dr Roslyn Bascombe –Adams, director of emergency services, revealed the number of dog bite injuries dealt with in the department had remained consistent over the years.

She added: “Only a small proportion of the patients with these kind of injuries are children, and these kind of cases occupy a small percentage of our overall work.

“However some injuries can require skin grafts and plastic surgery.

“Our focus is keeping infection to a minimum and making sure that there is not a risk to other people.”