The SPCA yesterday called for stricter laws against owners who mistreat pets after an aggressive pit bull ended up getting shot dead in the street by police.

Chairman Andrew Madeiros said it seems officers had no choice other than to shoot the dog as it went on the attack in the area of Court Street and Elliot Street, biting two people.

Police and a dog warden were responding to a report of animal cruelty on Friday afternoon, when the 19-year-old suspect is said to have turned his animal onto them before attempting to flee.

“In a case like this, obviously the dog for whatever reason had a temperament problem,” Dr Madeiros told The Royal Gazette. “The warden was faced with a very aggressive animal and it sounds like it was an unprovoked attack.

“It’s pretty difficult for any individual to fend off dogs of that size. Once they grab hold of you, they will not let go. Once it was clear the dog was tough and dangerous, it sounds like they didn’t have any option. Obviously I feel very sorry for the individuals bitten. Clearly, this was a very, very bad situation all round.”

Dr Madeiros said Bermuda needs better legislation to ensure animals are better treated and less likely to attack, claiming some people keep dangerous dogs as status symbols because they think it makes them seem tough. Some are kept tied up in yards where they are unable to socialise, which leads to temperament problems, he said.

“There’s quite a few dogs in Bermuda that live a life like that. We get a lot of calls of concern for dogs not being cared for appropriately,” he said. “Under the present legislation, that’s not an offence. If they get fed water and are given shelter, it’s very difficult for the SPCA to act.

“It’s very unfortunate there are people out there that will take a dog and will use it as a weapon, which is pretty cowardly.

“If it can be proven a person hits or beats a dog, that’s an offence. But it’s easier to get somebody charged for simpler offences like not having a licence.”

Dr Madeiros said the UK has recently tightened up its laws for dog owners, forcing them to ensure a good quality of life, including psychological well-being, for their pets.

He said he hopes Bermuda can follow suit, saying of the UK legislation: “It gives far more broad aspect to ensure the dog is well cared for.

“It’s something we are looking at here. The fact it’s already done and vetted in the UK certainly helps our chances of doing it here.”

Friday’s incident is thought to be first time Bermuda police have fired live rounds on duty.

The dog attacked a passer-by and a dog warden and, when it could not be controlled with a bite stick and control pole, it was shot by a police officer.

The teenaged suspect was arrested after people helped police give chase.

By Tim Smith The Royal Gazette