Saint Lucia has a long-standing reputation for being a luxurious holiday destination; boasting breath-taking landscapes and diverse marine ecosystems, visitors are promised the experience of a lifetime in this small corner of the Caribbean. This week, guest writer and postgraduate law student, Jenna Green will consider whether the established rhetoric regarding Saint Lucia’s status as a paradise coincides with its’ approach to animal protection laws.
At present, animal rights laws in Saint Lucia are governed by the Animals Act 2005 (AA 2005), also contained within the Revised Laws of Saint Lucia (2019). The Act has a predominant focus on “the prevention of cruelty to animals, the seizure and impounding of stray animals, the proper control of animals and for related matters”.
Dog specific legislation
A key focus of the Act is the governance of obligations pertaining to the ownership, importation, breeding, and registration of dangerous dogs. Such regulations include the prohibition of persons under 18 years of age owning or transporting a dangerous dog, and that such dogs must be securely fitted with a muzzle when away from their place of residence. The listed attributes of these animals include, but are not limited to, dogs over 20kg, fighting dogs, Dobermans, Ridgebacks, German Shepherds, and any other dog deemed dangerous by the Minister of local government.
Upon assessment of this, it is apparent that the qualifying conditions are arbitrary , with an apparent bias against larger breeds. Much like with the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991 of England, Wales and Scotland, breed-specific legislation could be argued as negating the importance of responsible dog ownership.
Furthermore, sections 31-33 AA 2005 regulate the ownership and registration of fighting dogs, despite the prohibition of ‘encouraging’ the baiting or fighting of dogs and bulls contained within section 6 AA 2005. Upon registering a fighting dog, the assigned registration number is branded onto the pinna of the animal’s ear; a particularly sensitive area of a dog’s anatomy, owing to the multitude of nerve endings contained within them. This directly contradicts the purpose of Part 2 of the act: the prohibition of cruelty to animals.
Animals found wandering around or on public highways may be seized and impounded, or even shot. Unfortunately, the reality is dogs, cats, goats and many more animals are regularly seen on highways and in public spaces. Furthermore, rather than the Government providing adequate solutions to Saint Lucia’s overpopulation of strays, there is a heavy reliance on organisations such as Helpaws; a charity that rescues, adopts, and offers neutering for the abundance of dogs and cats.
Saint Lucia’s status as a tourism hot spot has encouraged the provision of horse-riding experiences around the island. Whilst section 3(1)(b) prohibits the overloading of animals, many businesses offering such experiences fail to implement appropriate weight restrictions. Additionally, section 7 establishes that utilising animals in emaciated conditions for work purposes is an offence, and persons found guilty will be liable to a fine of $1,000. It is standard practice to tether horses around the island, with many relying solely on the grasses, herbs, and weeds for nutrition; something that may be considered substandard for their workload. Unfortunately, it is apparent that whilst there are restrictions pertaining to the maltreatment of animals in place, enforcement appears to be relatively lax.
Finally, section 3(1)(b) establishes that any person who inflicts torture upon an animal is in direct violation of the Act, and is liable to a fine of $1,000.
Whilst Saint Lucia has an established framework for animal protection laws, both enforcement mechanisms and sanctions need to be developed in order to generate an effective response to the maltreatment of animals. Additionally, there is considerable scope for addressing the root of the problem, be it overpopulation of stray animals or the reasons a dog may become dangerous.
The hope is this island paradise is worthy of this title for animals.
This blog post is not legal advice. If you’re an animal advocate, organisation or charity and think that private prosecutions might help achieve your objectives, it is vital to seek expert advice at the earliest possible stage. This will help ensure you comply with your obligations, maximise your prospects of success and avoid disappointment and wasted costs. For more information on the services Advocates for Animals offers please contact firstname.lastname@example.org