New legislation to address the issue of stray dogs in Seychelles and encourage dog owners to responsibly care for their pets was presented to the general public during the weekend.
The principal secretary of the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, Michael Nalletamby, said in one of the presentations that the legislation will put an end to stray dogs and the nuisance they cause. Stray dogs are an issue on all of the three most inhabited islands of Seychelles -- Mahe, Praslin and La Digue.
"The authorities have drafted legislation that will enable people to preserve their animal and educate dog owners on their responsibilities," said Nalletamby.
The new law will replace the Dog Control Act of 1982 and will enter into force in January 2018. The obligations imposed on dog owners by the new law requires every owner to register their dog and notify authorities if there is any change in address or ownership.
"All dogs over three months must be registered. This will allow the authorities to keep a track record and take reasonable steps to ensure that dogs do not cause damage or nuisance to a person, poultry, domestic animal or protected wildlife," said the principal secretary.
At present, Seychelles, a group of 115 islands in the western Indian Ocean, has no statistics that can identify the number of dogs per household. Under the new law, the authorities will be able to appoint dog control officers and a police officer.
"Where any dog control officer suspects that an offence has been committed, they may enter premises at any reasonable time to take necessary actions," said Nalletamby.
The managing director of the Seychelles Society for Protection of Cruelty to Animals, Jimmy Marie, told SNA the society has been advocating for such legislation.
"A lot of people still don't know how to treat an animal. In certain instances, we had to close our eyes in cases of animal cruelty, but now the legislation will give us the power to take required actions," said Marie.
Upon registration, owners need to provide details of their dogs such as the name, residential address, contact numbers, the premises where the dog will ordinarily. Dog owners will have to give a statement that the dog will be effectively confined in or at those premises. After registration, the dog will receive a special tag of identification.
All dogs considered as dangerous will have a microchip implanted under the new legislation.
A concerned citizen, Tessa Henderson, said that the law should identify a list of dogs that should be restricted and considered as dangerous.
The elected member of the National Assembly for English River, Wilbert Herminie, said, "The legislation needs to provide a limitation of dogs per household as to many can be a nuisance."
During the presentation, there was an intense debate on whether or not dogs should be sterilised, and a certified dog trainer, Andrew Balette, said that this is also inhumane as it reduces the traits exposed by the animal.
The principal secretary said that dogs should be euthanised (put to sleep) in a more humane manner, and the use of poison will no longer be used.
The bill makes provision to have dog shelters on the three main islands to house stray dogs until their owners can be located, or they can be re-homed. Ultimately, dogs that cannot be found a home after a set period will be put to sleep.
For breaches of the law, Nalletamby said that a person could be fined up to $4,000 (SR50 thousand) or face imprisonment. An aggrieved person may appeal to the authority within 14 days.
The draft bill is being presented to the members of the public through a series of meetings, which started beginning of July. The draft which is final, will be presented to the Cabinet of Ministers for endorsement and then to the National Assembly for approval in September.