MONDAY MAN: Peter’s love for dogs
DOG OWNERS might have been feeling under attack in recent weeks, but one animal welfare advocate has some kind words for them.
Despite some challenges with neglect, Barbados still has a high percentage of dog lovers who really care for their canines, according to Peter Belgrave of the Animal Control Centre.
“People have been changing in terms of their general care of dogs,” the animal control inspector said. “The education is getting out; it is a little bit slow in that everyone is not responding at the same rate, but there is progress.”
Belgrave said there were more than 25 000 owners locally, but that was not an indication of actual dog numbers since many people tended to own more than one dog.
He sees it as his mandate to educate the public about dogs, dog care and everything dog related.
While participating at the Roberts and Vitapet Dog Fair on World Animal Day recently, Belgrave said the approach of animal control officers of yesteryear used to be combative and all about enforcement, but what the centre had found was that shouting at people did not always get the message across.
“What we have done in the last couple years is to try to gently persuade persons using social pressure and activities like the dog fair to get Barbadians to understand that no longer is a dog an animal in the backyard that you feed scraps. The dogs are eccentric beings, they have feelings and they can be therapeutic to their owners.”
Belgrave spoke of the range of benefits of dogs and how they enrich the human existence by performing and assisting in very unique ways.
They also provide health benefits to the owners by helping, for example, to lower blood pressure and ease depression.
In addition, studies have suggested that dogs could be trained to warn diabetic patients when their blood sugar levels are about to become low.
“There is a high percentage of Barbadians who are diabetic. That would be an outlet for them to have dogs assist in terms of letting them know when their blood sugar has dropped too low,” he said.
“For persons with autism and Alzheimer’s, they can be used as therapeutic dogs . . . . The act of petting the dog can be therapeutic.”
Care and training
On whether working dogs can become a reality in Barbados given past perceptions, Belgrave said the centre was seeking to get individuals past the view of dogs as security support, but to look at their all-encompassing benefits.
He said interest was also being placed on veterinary care and training.
“Sometimes a dog can be very strong-willed and there are some techniques that can be used to get the dog to be more sociable and understand commands.
“There was a time when people would say, ‘I let go the dog to get a stretch foot but it was difficult to get it back inside once it had gone off the premises’. So we do see persons taking the concept of training seriously and learning how to control their dogs themselves, leading to a more stable and responsible and controlled dog that is less likely to have a behavioural problem.”
Belgrave said the Animal Control Centre was the governmental agency under the Ministry of Health responsible for managing the canine population and was not to be mixed up with the privately-run Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. He said the centre promotes the importance of licensing and registering of dogs.
In addition, they work with the veterinary association and refer dog owners to services they may require, including having dogs spayed or neutered. “It is better to get the males neutered and the females spayed so they cannot reproduce and contribute to overpopulation.”
One of the rules of thumb, Belgrave said, is that Barbados does not really have stray dogs in the traditional sense. Rather, there are some dog owners who are irresponsible, who may not restrain their dogs properly or just allow them to wander or roam at night.
“At night when you are sleeping, your dog is out there up to mischief and when you wake up in the morning, you see the dog back in your yard sleeping comfortably, but you do not know the damage it would have done during the night,” he said.
“We want people to be more responsible, make sure their premises are properly secured and that they do not contribute to having negligence or dogs straying and causing damage to other people’s property.”