Although Barbados has passed the National Animal Act, allowing for the importation of animals without restrictions from a wider cross section of countries, amendments must be made to allow service animals to go where people can go.
That was the position of President of the Barbados Council for the Disabled Senator Kerryann Ifill as she spoke to the media in the Grace Adams Suite at the Grantley Adams International Airport where a reception was held for British guide dog Dylan, the first trained guide dog to come to the island.
She said that while the new law which takes effect next January was commendable, especially as it relates to allowing service animals to enter the country, there was a need for specific legislation allowing animals to enter restaurants and hotels.
“It also represents greater independence for persons who are blind and visually impaired. Service animals, on a whole, provide a valued part of many lives of persons living with a variety of disabilities, not just blindness. There are a lot of people who come to Barbados and want to bring their service animals but they can’t because of the way the laws are structured,” she said.
“So we are hoping to open up doors, not just for our Barbadians but for visitors to the island . . . Tourism is our main foreign exchange earner and you have a lot of people who come here who want to bring their service animals. You have visually impaired persons who travel on cruise ships and want to come into port.”
The UK Guide Dog Abroad Sensitization Tour has been facilitated by the Barbados Council For the Disabled, in association with the Animal Control Centre, the Ministry of Health, Ministry of Agriculture and The Guide Dogs for the Blind Association in the UK.
Dylan’s arrival on the island this afternoon coincided with the celebration of World Sight Day, which is recognized universally as the day to commemorate persons who live with blindness and visual impairment.
The Labrador crossed with Golden Retriever will be on the island for five days. Dylan has a very busy schedule that will include visits to schools, participating in the Animal Week rally on Saturday, and touring Harrison’s Cave.
His owner Danny Eleeson, who is visually impaired, explained that the dog which he acquired last August has not only made it easier for him to get around but has also became his best friend.
“He is absolutely fantastic. He totally changed my life. I used to go everywhere with a white cane but Dylan just guides you everywhere. People tend to move out of the way and he is just a lovely companion and lovely to be with,” said the owner of the soon to be three-year-old dog.