Lack of resources exacerbates stray dog problem, DRCA manager says

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Stray dogs are a common sight on Antigua’s streets (File photo by Adia Wynter for Observer)
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By Makeida Antonio

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Residents have long voiced their concerns with the mistreatment of pets and the lack of attention from the state’s authority responsible for the issue of the disturbingly large number of stray dogs roaming the streets of Antigua and Barbuda.

A recent letter to the editor of the Daily Observer outlined the public’s critique of the Dog Registration and Control Authority (DRCA) and its employees for failing to respond to calls and reports of stray dog sightings.

However, DRCA Manager Melissa Elliot yesterday rebutted the public’s tongue-lashing by revealing that the unit lacks the appropriate tools and resources necessary for the job.

Elliot claimed that, without consultation, the DRCA was transferred to the Ministry of Agriculture earlier this year, after being attached to the Ministry of Health for around four years, and believes the lack of quick response to remedy the stray dog situation negatively impacts the country’s tourism product.

“We have met with the Director [of Agriculture] who I was told was the one that we could report to in the interim while they sort it out and decide what heading we would be placed under,” she said on yesterday’s Observer AM show.

“We’ve had meetings with the Chief Veterinary Officer and other veterinarians as we try to decide how we’re going to go forward, how we are going to address the immediate concerns and issues.”

Additionally, Elliot empathised with residents saying it is also frustrating for her and her staff being unable to remove the hungry, injured or otherwise suffering animals since under current operations there is not enough staff, equipment, facilities or euthanising medication available.

“They’re saying people are getting paid and aren’t doing the work. But the thing is, it is the ‘Dog Registration and Control Authority’; the stray dog part of it is the ‘control’ part. We don’t have much control over not being able to do that part of the work, but there are other parts of the job which entails the animal abuse part and responding to reports, and the registration part that we still have the capacity to do and the staff is still doing,” she stated.

A previous arrangement between the Humane Society and the DRCA allowed for renting kennels at the Society’s Bethesda facility, but Elliot was later informed that the facility was no longer available for use – hence when residents call, they are told there is nowhere to house dogs.

“The Humane Society, as I was informed, decided that the authority was no longer — I don’t know if welcomed is the proper word to use — because of whatever internal situation was happening between them and the ministry. That is above my pay grade but whatever happened, all I was informed as the manager, by the board, is that we will no longer be using that facility,” she added.

Elliot shared her desire for operations to resume to full capacity as they had in years past.

“What we really want is to be in the position to act on it and [return] it back to the way it was a long time ago … before I was the manager, because there is information there for me to see how things were when they actually were in the position to go out and do the work and to pick up these dogs,” she expressed.

Minister of Agriculture Samantha Marshall was contacted for comment but referred Observer to Chief Technical Officer Gregory Bailey, who noted that allocation of resources to the Ministry of Agriculture was the reason for the pervasive stray dogs dilemma.

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