Mon | Jan 21, 2019

‘Not coming without our dog’

Published:Sunday | June 7, 2015 | 12:00 AMErica Virtue
People carry their pet dogs while waiting for a Catholic priest to bless the dogs outside the Saint Francis church in Lima, Peru, during the feast of Saint Francis of Assisi. Saint Francis is known as the patron saint of animals, birds, and the environment.

Mary Charlton loves Jamaica and has been coming to the island for years. Her love grew so strong that she made retirement plans to settle in the sunny isle on Jamaica's north coast with her family, including her dog. However, the Veterinary Division of the Ministry of Agriculture says while she is welcome, her dog is not.

This has pushed Charlton to say thanks, but no thanks.

"We have recently been in the early process of purchasing a home in Jamaica for our retirement years. We have been visiting for many years and recently been looking at properties. We found a property on the north coast that we liked and started to set the ball rolling for the purchase and our future in Jamaica," said Charlton.

"This has all ground to a halt now as I learned that we cannot bring our beloved dog to Jamaica. I was checking online to see what the requirements were, as most countries allow pets to enter as long as they have certain jabs and veterinary checks, and was shocked to learn that Jamaica just does not allow dogs ... unless they are from the United Kingdom," added Charlton.

"When you have a pet, it is part of the family, and leaving our dog is not an option. I am sure we are not the first people who have encountered this and had to rethink their plans accordingly.

"We have had to withdraw our offer on the property and are now looking at other islands," said Charlton in a letter to The Gleaner.

But Jamaica's Chief Veterinary Officer Osbil Watson said permission has been and may be granted for dogs to be taken into the island from countries outside of the UK in special circumstances.

According to Watson, amendments have also been recommended for the 1948 Animals (Diseases and Importation) Law.

"We are aware of this complaint from some individuals and we are well advanced into having amendments to the legislation," said Watson.

"Currently, there are individuals who have been granted permission to bring their dogs, especially individuals who are ill or some suffering from disabilities such as blindness," added Watson.

He said the Veterinary Division is awaiting amendments to the legislation.

"A lot has been done. Recom-mendations have already been made and there has been draft legislation. But we have been facilitating individuals with medical assistance dogs for some time," he explained.

While accepting that there is a need for change, Watson noted that several countries have had outbreaks of rabies and "at least 50,000 to 70,000 persons die annually from the disease across the world".

Process abused

According to Watson, Jamaica has been fortunate so far not to record any case of rabies, and "whatever is done must be done within the confines of the law".

"We have to protect both human and animal health in all that we do."

This was supported by a private practitioner who warned that some Jamaicans could be placed at risk by persons who abuse the process by claiming that their pets, mostly dogs, are critical to their mental health and their survival here.

"As a result, they are granted permission. But the process is being abused because of this archaic law," said the practitioner who asked not to be named.

Jamaica is a signatory to the Pet Passport Scheme which allows animals to travel between member countries without quarantine.

"The pet passport officially records information related to individuals animals. What it does is that it simplifies the process and speeds up the transport of animals within member countries."

Ja's policy on pets from overseas

n No dog or cat shall be imported into the island, except such

animal is imported directly from Great Britain, Northern Ireland or the Republic of Eire.

n Every dog or cat imported into Jamaica must be accompanied by an import permit from the Veterinary Division in the Ministry of Agriculture (Jamaica).

n On arrival at Kingston, which shall be the only port of entry into the island, every dog or cat shall be examined by an inspector appointed under the law, and if free of infectious or communicable diseases it may be landed.

n Every dog or cat imported into Jamaica must be accompanied by a certificate stating that there has been no rabies in unquarantined dogs, cats or other animals in the country from which it was exported. This certificate shall be given.

n No dog or cat imported into the island shall be landed if it has been in contact with any dog or cat other than a dog or cat coming directly from Great Britain, Northern Ireland or the Republic of Eire; or a dog or cat that has been released from quarantine in those countries in respect of rabies; and which in either case has been granted an official certificate from a country of origin referred to above.