Sun | Oct 20, 2019

PIT BULLS KILLED - St Richard’s in shock as teacher recovers from attack; dogs put down in aftermath

Published:Tuesday | September 24, 2019 | 12:30 AMJason Cross/Gleaner Writer

Three of four pit bulls implicated in a vicious attack in which a St Andrew teacher was pinned down for hours last Thursday have been euthanised.

The fourth dog, a puppy, was spared as the Jamaica Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, which had assisted the police in recovering the animals two days after the attack, carried out the procedure.

The grade six teacher at St Richard’s Primary School was reportedly attacked by the dogs late evening last Thursday in a section of Coopers Hill, St Andrew, while exercising. She was rescued nearly three hours later when a police officer who arrived on the scene fired a shot scaring off the dogs. Attempts by citizens to free her from the mauling had proven futile. They watched in horror as the dogs set upon the woman, inflicting several bite wounds and licking her blood.

Yesterday, a sombre mood was pervasive at St Richard’s as students and staff tried to process their grief.

The teacher is still recovering in hospital and The Gleaner has been informed that she is recuperating well and her injuries are not life-threatening.

Out of intensive care unit

She was allowed visits at the hospital yesterday for the first time since leaving the intensive care unit, according to a source at the school.

The source also told The Gleaner that much of the swelling on different parts of her body has begun to subside.

Yesterday, counsellors were on hand helping staff and students at St Richard’s to process the attack. They declined to speak to the media as they were still reeling from shock.

Among those providing intervention and support to the distressed school community were representatives of St Richard’s Roman Catholic Church, as well as Karl Samuda and a team from the education ministry, which he is overseeing. Samuda is also member of parliament of St Andrew North Central, in which the school is situated.

The police also sent a team from the Community Safety and Security Branch.

Debbie Meeks, a teacher at Calabar High School who knows the grade six teacher well, expressed relief that her colleague was able to survive the attack.

“She is just so calm, quiet, humble and peaceful, and to hear this has happened to her is heart-wrenching. It tears us (teachers) up as a group because we can’t imagine her lying there for hours with dogs just mauling her and there is no help. As a friend, it is painful,” Meeks said.

Jamaica Teachers’ Association President Owen Speid expressed concern that with the Government’s push to have more people exercising with its Jamaica Moves campaign, a teacher could be attacked in her community while on her fitness routine.

“One of the most fundamental things is that the Ministry of Health is promoting the Jamaica Moves programme in schools. Teachers will carry that from the schools into their communities. If teachers or anybody else cannot walk freely on the roads, then that is something we have to look at,” he said.

Speid also called for a ban on citizens owning pit bulls and other dogs considered dangerous.

“If a law is here [that bans them], the animals should not be here. They should find a way to make them extinct. Private owners should not have those dogs. If it is a security company, then fine,” he told The Gleaner as he visited St Richard’s.

Although he claims to love dogs, attorney-at-law Peter Champagnie, who was himself attacked roughly six years ago by a pit bull, explained that only the importation of the animals is on the law books as an offence.

“We should not move away from the discussion without recognising that dogs are important. The more I meet people is the more I love my dogs. [What is illegal] is the importation of that breed, but prior to the ban, we had pit bulls here. People also mix the pit bulls with other big-breed dogs,” he said.

“I was attacked by a pit bull and I had to receive surgery overseas to save my hand from becoming deformed. The Dog Liabilities Act that came about in the 1800s is very short and doesn’t deal with, for instance, the management of dogs considered to be dangerous. The legislation doesn’t speak to any onus on the owner to care for the dogs.”

Champagnie explained that there are no guidelines mandating an owner to have a certain height of fencing or a leash for the animal when on the road. He revealed that dog trainers are not required to be registered and there are no standards governing trainer competence.

“There is nothing to suggest that there are restricted areas and you cannot be walking your dog in an area where it is crowded and is not properly managed, and so on. In recent times, there has been discussion about a re-examination and overhaul of old legislation to bring them up to date. This is one that is deserving of attention, allowing a situation where owners of dogs are mandated to treat them, manage them and care for them in a particular way,” the attorney said.

jason.cross@gleanerjm.com