By Shamar Blunt
Founder of Action for Animals Barbados Gail Hunte says punishment for animal abuse needs to be tougher to serve as a deterrent to would-be offenders.
She said light sentences like that given to a man earlier this week after he admitted to mistreating his dog did not demonstrate that animal abuse in Barbados would be dealt with seriously.
Davino Shakell Howard, who was seen in a viral video with the animal on Pebbles Beach before it died, was sentenced to 12 months probation after pleading guilty to wantonly ill-treating and causing unnecessary suffering to a dog on September 13, 2022. As part of the sentence, Chief Magistrate Ian Weekes ordered that the 28-year-old man undergo counselling if it is deemed necessary.
Hunte told Barbados TODAY that the sentence had not sent the right message to locals, many of whom had seen videos of animal abuse incidents circulating on social media over the past several months.
“You want to send the message that animal abuse, human abuse, any form of abuse is not going to be tolerated in Barbados…. It causes degradation in our society and it leads to other things,” the animal rights activist said.
“Counselling is good, but…. how are we going to deter other persons from doing this again? Like I said, it’s not about the animals…. This could have been another person you did this to or anybody. We could all commit different kinds of criminal activity in a blink of an eye.”
Hunte said legislation related to animal abuse, such as the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act CAP 144A under which Howard was charged and could have received a maximum sentence of a $1 000 fine or 12 months in prison, or both, should be strictly enforced.
At Howard’s sentencing on Tuesday, attorney-at-law Lalu Hanuman who held a watching brief in court for the Ark Animal Welfare Society had urged Magistrate Weekes to jail the offender. Along with other animal rights advocates who were in the court, he later expressed disappointment that the punishment was not more severe.
Hunte, in her interview with Barbados TODAY, pushed back on the notion that only a certain group of individuals in Barbados were interested in such cases.
She stressed that the rights and protection of animals should be important to all citizens who respect life and laws.
“It’s not just about white people or people of a certain ilk that care about animals. There are so many [other] people who do care. Some people can’t care for [animals] well because of their financial circumstances and that is a different issue where animal activists and shelters help, but animal cruelty is a separate thing,” Hunte asserted.
“It has no colour or no demographic; it’s either right or wrong. It’s the intent and the actions behind what happened.”