The number of animals euthanised at the Animal Control Centre annually is on a steady decline.

This, according to Animal Control Officer, Curtis Thompson, is due in no small part to its Spay Day/Neutering initiative which was implemented in 2012.

Mr. Thompson said the number of dogs which were ???put to sleep??? had dropped from 1,157 in 2012 to just over 820 last year.
???In previous years, we were euthanising around 5,000 annually,??? he disclosed.

This year, the Centre will be hosting a Spay Day Barbados week of activities from Monday, February 24 to Friday, February 28.

This coincides with World Spay Day which will be recognised globally on Tuesday, February 25. The week will be held in collaboration with the Barbados Veterinary Association and persons will have the opportunity to spay/neuter their animals for a small fee.

However, dog owners will be required to undergo some screening to ensure that those who cannot afford to pay privately to have their animals spayed or neutered are the ones who benefit from the initiative.

???We will do a visit and an interview because throughout the year, what we are seeing is a lot of people who can afford [to spay] utilising spay day or spay week to cash in on the bargain when it wasn???t intended for them. The bargain is for those who cannot afford to pay the regular fee to the Vet,??? Mr. Thompson disclosed.

The senior officer added that the Centre was also fielding a lot more calls from Barbadians who could no longer afford to take care of their canines because of tough economic times.

He said the reasons given ranged from the genuine: ???I can???t afford to feed them anymore??? to bordering on the ridiculous: ???The dog is too big for me???, or ???The dog isn???t barking???.

???The key thing is responsible dog ownership. When private citizens call in to have their dogs picked up, there are a number of questions they have to satisfy???Most of the time the reasons are not in keeping with best practices as it relates to the humane handling of animals.

???It is a challenge because people feel that when they call us, we come for [the animals] take them back to the Centre and kill them. That mindset must change in this country. Consideration must go into the choosing of a dog first. If you didn???t think about the financial requirements??? there are other things to consider such as veterinary care, proper exercise, an appropriate food r??gime and these are the areas the Centre has been focusing on. So we are not just picking up and killing [your dog], we are engaging you in dialogue so that even if you are about to get a dog you are armed with the necessary information,??? he said.

Mr. Thompson pointed out that ???99 per cent??? of the dogs housed at the Centre were taken from private homes while the remainder were strays which were picked up by Animal Control Officers.

He reminded Barbadians that according to the Dogs (Licensing and Control Act) it was an offence to abuse or be cruel to animals, have unlicensed dogs, walk dogs on the beach hoard them or use them for fighting.

In the past, persons have been fined in addition to being convicted, reprimanded and discharged for offences, Mr. Thompson noted, adding that fines ranged from $100 to $50,000, depending on the offence. However, he said the Centre tried to place the emphasis on educating the public rather than on enforcement.

Additionally, the Animal Control Officer said that there was a ???three strike system??? where repeat offenders had their licences rescinded.
???In other words, you would be deemed unfit to own a dog and the dog would be removed from your custody,??? he explained.

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