The island of Caye Caulker is being faced with some problems due to an increase in its dog population. With reports of over 20 dog bites in the past five months, and the continued sightings of unkempt pets on the beaches and many public streets, this has become a dire concern to residents and visitors alike.Initially brought to light in a public meeting held in September of 2010, the issue of uncontrolled dogs was discussed at length and a plan was devised. The plan involved the implementation of a Public Awareness Campaign. “Through local media and public meetings, the Caye Caulker residents were informed of the rules and regulations regarding owning a pet,” said Caye Caulker Village Chairman, Mr. Alberto Villanueva. “Owners were encouraged to start practicing the leashing law – which stated that if a dog is in public, it must at all times, be held on a leash.”
He agreed that the public awareness campaign has been working well. Most dog owners now ensure that their dogs are behind closed gates/fences and that when in public, their pets are on a leash. However, the problem of the strays remains.
As a result, the Caye Caulker Village Council, in conjunction with the Caye Caulker Humane Society have embarked on a program that seeks to eradicate stray dogs that are not cared for and eventually, in the long run – provide a system where pets are controlled and are registered.
In the initial phase, dogs found in any public areas at the night time will be picked up by a team including, the local Health Inspector, a Police Sergeant, a Village Council worker and a member of the Caye Caulker Humane Society. If the dog possesses a collar with information in regards to ownership, such owner will be informed and granted the opportunity to pick up his/her dog. In cases where dogs show no sign of ownership, the animals will be put down.
According to Chairman Villanueva, “The process is very painless. A member from the Humane Society insisted that the team witness it. The dog is first administered a tranquilizer, in the form of an injection, which takes about five minutes to work. This is followed by the administering of a second injection, which puts them to sleep within the minute”.
The first phase of the eradication project was held on Thursday March 17, between the hours of 11:00pm and 2:00am, when eight dogs were picked up and humanely put to rest. Future plans include the implementation of a system where all pet owners will be required to register each pet. The details of that program are not complete as yet, but that is where the Council is gearing towards.