The Police Department is again, putting out a public notice, asking people to register their dogs before the end of this month. The registration fee varies from $22.50 to renew the annual registration, $60 to register a dog for the first time, and $15 for a dog collar.
According to the Chief of Police Tim Wilson, in 2022 a total of 146 dogs were registered with the Police Department, but there are more unregistered dogs on the island, many of them without homes, and are often seen roaming around looking for food.
For some people dogs are animals and are useful as pig hunters in the bush, while for others dogs are kept to protect their homes but very often, the dogs are neglected and left to fend for themselves.
Some people have an aversion to animal euthanasia and would rather take the dogs to the bush and abandon the animals in the bush or at the rubbish dumps.
For some, the cute puppies are taken home for the children as pets, but in some cases, when the dog grows up, no longer cute, and are often neglected and abused if they start chasing cars or chewing shoes.
The increasing number of feral dogs has been discussed as a problem for many years and even in parliament with members asking for the government to address the problem, but no one has raised the concern over animal cruelty and neglect of animals on the island.
People blame the animals as being the problem but no one is talking about the cruelty and abandonment of animals, especially those people who torture and beat their animals. A few months ago, a little dog with a heavy chain around its neck attached to a yellow round fishing floating device, was found foraging for food in a village. People were disturbed by the sight of the frail animal but no one spoke out against the owner. BCN News understand the picture of the dog was sent to the Police but it is not clear if the Police filed charges or if they knew who the owner of the dog is.
When asked if the Police have filed charges against people who neglect their dogs, Chief Tim Wilson said that it is very difficult to use the Cruelty Against Animals law because most people don’t register their dogs, “We have many dogs that have been abandoned, but we have to know the owner of the dog to make that charge”.
The law is not widely known and it is obviously not being upheld because there are at least 300 unregistered dogs on the island and no one has ever been charged with cruelty against animals.
BCN News reached out to ask if people knew about this law and many said that they were not aware that it is against the law to abandon or neglect animals.
The law protects animals by making it a criminal offense of up to $200 for cruelty against animals. It is an offense to beat, abuse, torture and mistreat animals or fail to provide sufficient food, water, and shelter for the animal and to abandon the animal.
Chief Tim Wilson said that it is difficult for the Police Department to hold people accountable for the mistreatment and abandonment of animals because they don’t know who owns the animals.
“The most committed offense in this legislation is abandonment. The problem is we have to prove who the owner is and that they are the ones who abandoned the animal. That is not always easy to do as these abandoned animals are not registered and we don’t know who abandoned them”, said Chief Timothy Wilson.
Meanwhile the voluntary group The Rock Vets are back on the island offering free animal care clinics at the old Primary School at Halamahaga, Alofi South.
The team of volunteers has been holding free clinics in Niue since 2014 and is credited with the most effective way to control the growing number of feral or abandoned animals, mainly cats, and dogs by having the animals neutered.
Today, at the start of the last sitting of the Fono Ekepule, the problem of dogs was again raised, but there were no questions about the responsibility of the humans who abandon or neglect their animals.