(Published in The Cayman Reporter, Wednesday, 25 January, 2017)
Mahatma Gandhi, the primary leader of India’s drive for independence from the British Empire and an anti-war activist who inspired movements for civil rights and freedom across the world was quoted as saying that “the greatness of a nation can be judged by the way its animals are treated.” Unfortunately for Cayman, by that analysis it doesn’t bode well.
Cayman is awash with neglected and abused animals. Just take a peek inside the Cayman Islands Humane Society’s facility which constantly battles a never-ending tide of animals in need. Alternatively, take a drive around Cayman to witness signs of our neglected four-legged creatures. Animals tethered 24-hours a day to trees in the blazing sun are a common sight, as are those which are left to wander the streets and fend for themselves. Many don’t get the medical attention they desperately need, while most go on to have litter after litter, despite the best effort of charities, such as Cayman Animal Rescue Enthusiasts who offer free spay and neuter services.
For years, local activists and animal organisations have worked tirelessly to help Cayman’s unwanted, abused, and neglected animals. There are now more animal organisations and charities than ever before, such is the need on our small island. Indeed, as reports of Cayman’s most shocking cases of animal abuse have continued to circulate across social media platforms a petition was started last year in a final attempt to try to push government into enforcing Cayman’s animal protection and welfare laws.
In 2016, local media was awash with stories reporting on the most heinous and barbaric cases of abuse, from a puppy tied up to a tree and left to die, the grizzly remains of the body of a burned dog, to dogs dropped off at the Cayman Islands Humane Society shelter in the most appalling states of neglect, and, arguably the most shocking of all, two separate incidents of sexual assault on three ponies at the Cayman Equestrian Centre. And, until things change, no doubt it won’t be long until our newspaper reports on yet another case of shocking animal cruelty.
So, no doubt, Cayman’s animal lovers welcomed the news that independent Legislative Assembly members, Alva Suckoo and Winston Connolly, are considering submitting private member motions to enforce our existing Animals Law, along with campaigning for harsher penalties for abusing animals, in addition to stiffer regulations for animal breeders. (See today’s front page story).
The Cayman Reporter is not aware of one single case of someone being prosecuted under The Animals Law, despite section 70 of the Animals Law (2015 provision) providing a broad spectrum of prohibited treatment of animals and various consequences of such behaviour.
Indeed, our editor has witnessed first-hand animal cruelty, and the lack of enforcement, when a dog appeared in her neighbour’s yard tethered to a tree on a short leash. Out of sheer frustration the dog wore the grass down from pacing up and down. It barked constantly for attention and whimpered as it was left – without shelter – through the harshest of thunderstorms. Despite repeated attempts to confront the owner, along with multiple calls to the Department of Agriculture, nothing was done. One day the dog simply disappeared.
The most complete and robust legal provisions in the world are meaningless unless they are applied and enforced without fear or favour. Criminal offences are not simply to punish wrongdoers, but to act as a deterrent. Criminal sanctions do not simply mete out to the offender their just desserts, but publicise to others the consequences of unlawful behaviour. In such regard, law not only reflects the social mores of a nation, but helps to shape and define them.
It is high time Cayman treated its animals with the respect they deserve. It is time to enforce Cayman’s Animals Law.