San Fernando corporation agrees to kinder policies on stray dogs

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Ginger the dog – Taken from Facebook

THE San Fernando City Corporation has agreed to adopt new policies to prevent any acts of misconduct or unlawful treatment of animals, in particular dogs, after being accused in the past of euthanising pet dogs hours after capturing them.

On Friday the acting CEO of the corporation told attorneys representing an animal-rights activist and rescuer who threatened to go to court over the capture of a stray dog, named Ginger, by the corporation’s canine control unit, and its eventually being put to sleep by a veterinarian.

The corporation also made an offer for settlement to Kavita Basdeo, the rescuer, and Teeluckdharry Boodram, the owner of Glen’s Alignment Services – where a stray dog, named Ginger and another dog, Mary, were allowed to stay before one was captured and euthanised by the corporation.

In January, attorneys for the two sent a pre-action protocol letter after the corporation’s canine control unit captured and euthanised Ginger.

The agreement to adopt new steps and policies is a victory for animal-rights activists, who have criticised the corporation for euthanising pet dogs within hours without giving their owners enough time to claim them.

In the letter to attorney Vidal Pooran, the corporation’s acting CEO, Heather Crawford, said the steps and policies to prevent “any acts misconduct and unreasonable or unlawful treatment of the nation’s animals, namely its dogs,” will take effect immediately.

These steps and policies will also be revised from time to time.

Basdeo and Boodram were also invited to attend monthly statutory meetings to offer suggestions or make requests on the steps, policies and procedures the corporation can adopt, for consideration by the council.

“We also undertake to implement said policies and to train our members of staff and to raise awareness for members of the public to better understand the role of the canine unit and also the proper procedure for making and dealing with complaints in relation to animals.”

Basdeo and Boodram had threatened to file a negligence claim against the corporation over Ginger’s death.

Pooran, who wrote the pre-action letter in January, said the two dogs were allowed to stay on Boodram’s premises around August 2022.

On August 11, the corporation’s canine unit captured Ginger at a drugstore next to Glen’s on Naparima Mayaro Road. An attempt to catch Mary was unsuccessful.

Half an hour later, Basdeo and Boodram tried to find Ginger. On Lady Hailes Avenue, they saw the canine unit’s vehicle. They were told the drug mart had called the pound and the dogs were picked up and taken to King’s Wharf, since they did not “put down healthy-looking dogs like that.”

The two continued their search for Ginger but were unsuccessful. They eventually returned to the canine control unit to find out exactly where the dog was released.

They were directed to the WASA compound near the wharf and went there, but still could not find the dog.

Later that day, they confirmed the corporation had taken Ginger to a veterinary clinic to be euthanised, ninety minutes after being caught.

Pooran quoted section 6 of the Dogs Act, and the corporation’s statutory duty on the capture of stray animals.

The corporation was accused of failing to detain Ginger at a place of detention for five days before euthanisation; failing to keep a proper register; failing to take measures to determine if the animal was sick, maimed or posed a threat to public safety; refusing to protect Ginger’s welfare; and failing to local Ginger’s owner before destroying the dog.

The legal letter also said the corporation was aware or ought to be aware that animals, including pets, from time to time may escape their abode, and owed the public a duty of care to ensure when an animal strays from its owner’s property, it is not “maliciously and/or arbitrarily or otherwise killed and/or harmed at the hands of the proposed defendant unless reasonably justified.”

The corporation had been given until February 10 to hold talks with the two to amicably resolve the issue without its having to go to court.

Attorneys Matthew Gayle, Crystal Paul, Jason Jones, and Amy Rajkumar also represented the two rescuers.

Ginger’s plight evoked strong condemnation from animal lovers at the time and a Facebook page was set up in the dog’s memory. The page, Ginger Deserves Justice, continues to be used as a platform for stray animals and rescuers.