Port of Spain North/St Ann’s West MP Stuart Young visited affected residents on January 1. –
The Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (TTSPCA) says it cannot support the proposed fireworks bill in its current form.
In a statement on Saturday, the TTSPCA, which manages two animal shelters in Port of Spain and Tobago, said the proposed legislation “does little to prevent the indiscriminate use of fireworks on public holidays and New Year’s Eve and results in great harm to animals.”
The statement said the proposed Summary Offences (Amendment) Bill, 2021 was “unfairly discriminatory to owners of animals.”
Several animal rights groups have also expressed concern with the proposed legislation which goes out for public comment later this month.
Also calling for a ban on the use of fireworks by the public is Port of Spain North/St Ann’s West MP Stuart Young.
In its statement, the TTSPCA said it operated as an open-admission facility accepting unwanted, lost and stray dogs and cats. It is often close to full capacity.
It said in a joint submission with the Animal Welfare Network to the joint select committee of Parliament “Inquiry into the adverse effects of Fireworks in 2017, the Port of Spain shelter reported during the period October 1, 2016-January 1, 2017, or the “fireworks season,” it received 198 calls reporting lost dogs while 36 dogs came into the facility.
The burnt out remains of four homes which were destroyed by fire on New Year’s Day at Quarry Street, Belmont. – Jeff Mayers
“The Port of Spain shelter protocols for dogs or cats determined to be ‘lost’ include housing for three-four weeks with attendant care including parasite treatment, feeding and veterinary oversight, and advertisement in the newspapers, in an effort to locate the owner.
“Lost dogs, therefore, represent a significant and unnecessary drain on the resources of the society. Injured lost dogs are an even greater financial burden, requiring veterinary care in a private facility.”
The TTSPCA also said owners of animals have increasingly protested they cannot leave home on New Year’s Eve for fear their animals will come to harm.
This is one of the reasons the TTSPCA said the proposed fireworks bill was discriminatory to animal owners who “are constrained from leaving their homes during this period.”
It again put forward the recommendations it made to the JSC in 2017, and called for a ban on the sale of fireworks to the public; a ban on the use or discharge of fireworks; and a permit/ licensing arrangement for the use of fireworks for special events.
It has also suggested restrictions on the location and period during which fireworks can be used at special events
It also emphasised there was a requirement to inform responsible agencies and the public in advance of any special event and that there should be a transition to ‘silent’ or reduced-noise fireworks at special events.
In a statement on Saturday, Young said as the representative of Port of Spain North/St Ann’s West and a citizen, his position was that “fireworks should not be sold to members of the public.
“The dangers and nuisance of fireworks being utilised by members of the public and the trauma that their use causes to many, and animals as well, are simply beyond mere inconvenience on selected days of the year.
“I also personally think that fireworks utilise (waste) foreign exchange and are literally burning up foreign exchange unnecessarily. Foreign exchange that is better allocated to more sustainable and useful items.”
Young said a permit system for the public to purchase and use fireworks will be burdensome and not an efficient use of the police’s resources.
“I can however envisage a system where event promoters may get approval to use fireworks in pre-approved areas on a limited basis and for a limited time.”
In his statement, Young made it clear the views were his.
Young encouraged not only his constituents but the public to participate in the public consultation process on the proposed legislation.
He made it clear the Government had not decided on a policy on the sale and use of fireworks by the public.
“Therefore, the views of the population are critical as they will be considered before the finalisation of any policy and any legislation dealing with the sale and use of fireworks.
“The draft bill that has been circulated for public comment is simply a draft and is not the Government’s final policy which is why the Cabinet decided that it was necessary to engage in public consultation prior to finalising any policy and legislation on fireworks.”
On January 1, at least 25 residents of Quarry Street in Belmont were left homeless after a fire, said to be caused by a Chinese lantern, destroyed their homes.
Residents said it was just after midnight when a Chinese lantern landed on the roof of one of the four homes on a compound.
At the time, Young blamed it on fireworks. “… I was upset, and saddened to learn that it seems like the source of this fire, that has caused over 20 people to now be homeless, was started by a type of firework landing on one of the houses,” Young said on his Facebook page.
One woman sustained minor burns attempting to escape while the others were uninjured. In addition to the four destroyed homes, two cars and one light pole were destroyed, and the roof of a nearby home was damaged.
He continues to work with various agencies to assist the affected residents.