By Dale Andrews
Just who is really responsible for the upkeep of the animals in the police pound? This question arose when this newspaper observed several jackass carcasses in the pound at the Beterverwagting Police Station on the East Coast of Demerara.
From all indications, the animals died from starvation and they appeared to have been lying there for several days.
When this newspaper visited the facility on Wednesday last following complaints from workers of the nearby Guyana Telephone and Telegraph Company (GT&T) BV Exchange, the carcasses of two donkeys, which were already in an advanced state of decomposition, were lying on the ground.
Another donkey, which appeared to be drawing its last breath, was also in the pound.
Ironically, only the day before, Divisional Commander Derrick Josiah carried out an official inspection of the station.
Kaieteur News was told that no less than 16 donkeys have died at the Beterverwagting Pound within the past three months.
This follows the intensification of removing animals from the country’s roadways by operatives of the Ministry of Home Affairs Stray Catching Unit.
Animals on Guyana’s roadways have been a major problem over the years and recently the Ministry of Home Affairs began a massive ‘stray catching’ exercise.
Stray catchers are currently being paid $5,000 per animal. Once an animal is caught it is supposed to be kept at the nearest pound, most of which are housed at police stations for a specific period.
During that period, the owner can come forward, claim the animal and pay a cost of $5,000 in order to get it back. However if that period (two weeks) expires, the animal becomes the property of the state, and can be disposed of through public auction.
But given the high value for cows, owners have been coming forward to reclaim them – not so for the unbranded horses and jackasses, which are being kept as guests of the state for an indefinite period.
As a result, these animals have been locked up in police pounds for more than two weeks, in most cases, without water and proper food.
A Ministry of Home Affairs official told this newspaper on Wednesday that hardly anyone comes forward to purchase donkeys at the public auctions.
“Long ago people used them to pull carts but these days, people are no longer interested in donkeys,” the official said.
He explained that there is an arrangement in place should the animal die while in the custody of the police.
“They are normally supposed to get in contact with the zoo to dispose of the carcass if it is fresh enough to be consumed by other flesh-eating animals, or they should burn it using old tyres,” the official explained.
However, he pointed out that in light of what is happening, it would be best to contact the zoological park before the animal dies.
This newspaper was reliably informed that while the owners of animals would normally go and feed them, the Station Sergeants are responsible for the upkeep of unclaimed animals in the police pounds.
Persons who were made aware of the situation are suggesting that the authorities find a proper holding place for the animals after the stipulated period of impoundment, before quickly auctioning them off, which would somewhat ensure their survival while in the state’s care.
“Even if they put these animals in a pasture, at least they get grass and they can survive a little longer,” a concerned animal lover told this newspaper.
A few weeks ago this newspaper had contacted Home Affairs Minister Clement Rohee on the matter and he had informed that his Ministry was not in receipt of any reports about dying animals in the police pounds.
“Once we have that information we will certainly take steps to deal with it,” Rohee told Kaieteur News.
He explained that if such occurrences are taking place at the police pounds, there is a procedure that should be followed.
According to the Minister, if an animal in pound appears ill, the ranks at the station should inform their superior, who in turn should inform the coordinator of the stray-catching programme.
“Before jumping to conclusions, one has to ascertain in what condition the animal was brought,” Minister Rohee said.
Although there have been some criticisms of the stray-catching programme, the Home Affairs Minister defended it as being very successful.
“People want to see this programme fail and they are making all kinds of allegations. But the programme is highly successful,” Rohee stated.
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