THE EDITOR: I never watched the video. Even if I had the opportunity to, I wouldn’t. But everyone that did must have had a visceral response to it. The video I’m referring to is the gruesome hanging of Madison, a dog owned by a young man who, along with two friends, was arrested, charged and brought before the court for the cruel act.
When the video surfaced there was widespread outrage on Facebook, not only for the brutality of the act but the manner in which it was done, completely oblivious to the life that was being taken.
It was that very outrage that prompted police action to find and arrest the perpetrators. Had the cruelty not been recorded, the response would have been akin to the numerous acts of animal cruelty in TT – unacknowledged, unheard and unseen, like a felled tree in a forest.
With the offenders in the hands of the police we anticipated the judgment to come, expecting that the fine and prison time amended in law to suit these vicious crimes would be decisive, swift and that justice would be served. Many thought the arrest and charge were positive steps that would send a message to anyone who would dare put an animal’s life in danger – that the long arm of the law would find and punish them.
Almost six months later, the verdict was in. Four-hundred-dollar fine for each of the defendants. But that’s not even the worst part. The Guardian’s report on the virtual hearing raised more questions than answers.
Was the video presented as evidence in the matter? Was the prosecutor (a police officer) or the magistrate aware of the increased fine and prison time for the crime? Did anyone verify that the dog was in fact “dropped off at a nearby pound” on three occasions as stated by the owner? Did the owner ever visit a vet with the dog after the injury? Was any animal behaviour expert consulted on how an injured dog could become aggressive?
The outcome of this matter speaks volumes for the aptitude of law enforcement and the magistracy to treat with animal cruelty cases. Not an iota of justice has been served. What message does this send to the accused? That they probably shouldn’t document and share a torturous act, but that torture equates to compassion and it’s perfectly fine to “put an animal out of its misery” in this way? That they are free to own and possibly torture another animal to death?
Around the time when Madison was killed in April, I lost my own cat to straying dogs for which my family has received no justice. I am therefore painfully reminded at this juncture that a culture of care and protection for animals does not exist in TT and that laws clearly aren’t the solution if those charged with the responsibility to enforce and apply them fall short.