By Theresa Goodwin
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Scores of residents, particularly animal lovers, are questioning the capability of the Dog Registration and Control Authority (DRCA) to accommodate roaming dogs that will be removed and impounded from the Heritage Quay area by March 1.


And some are chastising pet owners for contributing to the long-standing problem of stray animals.


The DRCA issued a notice earlier this week urging owners to keep their animals within their yard or under their direct control at all times – and warning them all dogs “found at large” within the duty-free shopping hub will be taken away.


Contributors to OBSERVER media’s Facebook page, along with a discussion page associated with the charity Dogs and Cats of Antigua, are suggesting that the DRCA is already struggling to cope with the problem with limited resources.


One social media user posted, “If the government chose to take this issue seriously, they would partner with the non-profits, provide adequate funding and better resource their own dog control team. Then a systematic policy of spaying, neutering and law enforcement could be put in place.”
Another Facebook user criticised a lack of law enforcement surrounding the issue. “Of course owners should take responsibility but they won’t because no one makes them, and instead of spaying and neutering and keeping dogs in fenced yards they allow free-roaming, then dump the unwanted babies on the street to lead miserable lives and die traumatic deaths.


“Why should the dogs pay the price for human ignorance?”


One woman refuted the notion that the Heritage Quay dogs had owners. “If you were to scan any of them I can pretty much guarantee none of them would be microchipped,” she said. “Rounding them up and ‘impounding’ them is not a solution; they will soon be replaced by other dogs.


“Until we get serious about spaying and neutering, there will always be this problem.”


Another urged dog owners to be more responsible. “How long are we going to go through this nonsense? First world countries do not allow animals to run amuck in their city spaces. Why should we?” she wrote. “Packs of dogs roaming town ripping up garbage is not a good thing. Owners should get with the programme.”


Meanwhile, the DRCA’s general manager Melissa Elliot said the authority’s facility has no space to accommodate the Heritage Quay animals.


“At the moment, we have little to no space at the pound. Some dogs may or may not be adopted,” she told Observer.


Elliot explained that adoption takes place regularly and once this happens space will be created for new canines.


The DRCA also stated that some animals may not be in good health when they are impounded which presents another challenge.


Chairman of the DRCA, Agnes James, under whose authority the notice was sent out this week, said the DRCA’s approach is not new, but the focus this time is Heritage Quay which is frequented by tourists.


As it relates to capacity, the chairman explained that impounded dogs only remain at the facility for a short time.


“If they are sick, they will be treated, looked after and rehomed. If they have owners, they will hear the notice and would come to the shelter to collect the animal after paying a fee. We also hope that some of them who do not have owners will find new homes which will make space for others,” James said.


In some cases, very sick animals are euthanised which, according to the DRCA chairman, is the last resort.


For years the government agency has been accused of falling short in terms of its responsibility to control the growing problem of roaming dogs. DRCA officials have responded stating that they are doing what they can to resolve the issue.