At the crack of dawn, she dragged the dismembered body to the roadside, with utmost care. This was someone’s loved one. Someone was grieving somewhere, wondering if their companion or family member was lost...dead...alive. Many people all over Trinidad and Tobago were undoubtedly grieving similarly.
That body was not the only one my friend and her companions (who had formed a small search/rescue team) encountered on January 1. Several other corpses littered their route along the East-West Corridor. Some, reduced to heaps of bloody entrails, were, at first glance, barely recognisable as dogs. In one instance, a piece of the car that had slammed into the animal lay nearby, a souvenir of the impact.
At what speed were those drivers going? At least the dogs, running in terror and confusion from the cacophony of fireworks, must have died instantly. Nothing that is literally cut in half (to the extent that, at first, in a photograph, it looks like two rather than one of its kind) would have had a chance to suffer.
An awareness video, edited from footage shot by the small search/rescue party, was uploaded to Facebook with the heart-rending consideration: “What if the owners of dead dogs see their pets in the video? How will they feel?”
This is exactly what happened, as one family, upon viewing the video, identified their dog, for whom they had been searching in the aftermath of the Old Year’s night "warfare." At least the heartbreaking confirmation gave them closure.
Would we feel any better if sellers of fireworks vowed to come out the day after the carnage and help rescue the countless injured and lost animals...collect and respectfully dispose of the dead...inject some of their multi-millions into the high veterinary bills that animal rescuers and caring members of the public pay from their pockets, in most cases for animals that we do not even know?
One dog, rescued by the search/rescue team after being hit by a vehicle, was rushed to a vet clinic which, thankfully, opened in the pre-dawn hours to accept the emergency case. Her demeanour and appearance hinted that she could be someone’s beloved pet. X-rays were done and the dog was kept at the clinic for some days, under observation.
Fireworks suppliers and vendors...will you pay the bill, which is in the thousands? No, you won’t. Strangers who have nothing to do with this dog, but care about her wellbeing after seeing her case featured on social media, have kindly donated to cover the cost.
On December 31, 2021, when her neighbour’s incessant fireworks kept hitting the guttering of her home/guest house, terrorising her and her dog and putting her property in danger, a friend in Tobago called the police. A female officer answered with a cheery “Happy New Year!” However, upon receiving my friend’s report of the neighbour’s illegal use of fireworks and the resulting fire hazard, the officer sucked her teeth and promptly hung up the phone.
My friend, who has a strict "no fireworks, no explosives" policy at her property was left incensed, frustrated and helpless.
That very night, several home-dwellers in Port of Spain, Trinidad, were not so fortunate. Those victims are calling for a ban on fireworks after their homes were ravaged by fire which, according to an eyewitness, was caused by a fire lantern (a kind of firework) that had landed on the roof of one building.
The draft bill seeking to regulate the use of fireworks is currently up for public consultation. However, unless there is enforcement of the law (and not steupsing of police officers), no legal amendments re fireworks will amount to anything... just as amendments to the laws against animal cruelty have, thus far, amounted to nothing. As it stands, the draft fireworks bill is unacceptable (view it here: https://tinyurl.com/fireworks-bill and e-mail your feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org by January 26). According to one source, the draft sounds like it was written by the sellers of fireworks themselves.
Barring a complete ban on fireworks (which will probably never happen in TT), Minister Stuart Young’s call for a ban on the sale of fireworks to members of the public will be, for many (and hopefully most) of us, the only acceptable amendment to the legislation.
We must agree to nothing less.