The issue, as it relates to stray dogs attacking residents of the Capital has raised many public concerns as it has also brought to light that neither the City Council or the Police Department seem to be responsible for dealing with the matter.
On Tuesday, February 18th, one resident went on record to state her own experience with violent dogs on the loose in her neighbourhood; dogs which had attacked numerous persons on different occasions. She told plusnews that she was given the run around by both the police and the City Council.
Concerned Female Resident
“When the old man got bitten, I called the police, and the police told me that the are not responsible for that; that I need to call the City Council. Then I called the City Council and they said, “no, it’s the police”. I called back the police again and they said “no, it is the City Council. So, I said, this is ridiculous!”
A representative from the Belmopan City council sat down with us and did an on camera interview, telling us that the city council would not be the authority to be called in the event of a dog attack but that the council does have a stray dog eradication program. The police did not give us an interview at the time of that report but basically told us that they can only act if a person is actually attacked by a dog and then that person makes an official police report.
This morning, Officer Commanding the Western Division, Aaron Guzman, called in to Rise and Shine morning show to make some clarifications and to apologize to the woman who gave us the report that she made to police but said she left the police department feeling helpless after no assistance was given to her.
“Firstly, I must apologize to the person that called to the police station and was directed elsewhere. It is our responsibility as law enforcement officers to take the first call. Then, we should know who to call. It was wrong from my police officer to say to call someone else, alright? That is our responsibility. So, we should have responded and gone out there”
Officer Guzman further explained that incidents of ferocious dogs on the streets require the collective cooperation of residents, police, city council, and health authorities.
Mr. Aaron Guzman: “If it is that the person injured doesn’t take court action, then it basically ties our hands to a certain extent. That is when we the police have to cooperate with the City Council and the Health Department to seek courts permission to dispose of that astray animal that is giving trouble, so, the City Council and the police and the Health Department to work together as a combination. Now, the bi-laws for the City gives the City Council certain authority. So, the City Council or the Police will have to act with the City Council; we cannot act alone”.
Officer Guzman also advised that if there is the habitual occurrence of a ferocious dog on the loose in a particular neighborhood, residents can draft a letter with signatures of those concerned residents and submit the letter to the Belmopan City Council and a copy to the police department. Then, on the strength of a report originating from the City Council, the police can act.
In an update on Debbie Gomez who was viciously attacked by pitbulls, she has been at home recovering from her injuries. She told us that though she has not been well enough to go to the police station to officially press charges, she fully intends to as soon as she is better.