JSPCA calls for laws to safeguard creatures left unattended in criminal proceedings
Without a well-stocked ark or a shepherd to tend to their needs, several animals abandoned after a deadly ritual and police raid at a Montego Bay church last weekend were left unattended for days. The situation has triggered a call for the State to establish laws for greater consideration to the welfare of all creatures affected by criminal proceedings.
Last Sunday, the authorities took control of the Pathways International Kingdom Restoration Ministries in Paradise in the Second City, arresting the church leader and several members of his flock.
A combined team from the Jamaica Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (JSPCA), Hope Zoo and the Montego Bay Animal Heaven visited the church on Friday.
“We need proper legislation so that when there is a crime scene, one knows what to do with the animals because it is a difficult process right now,” noted JSPCA Managing Director Pamela Lawson.
“In this day and age, it is so important for the Government to look at doing a more comprehensive animal welfare law that also deals with animals when there is a crime scene,” Lawson said. “There are too many grey areas. We don’t know where and how we should proceed at this point, so we are working under advice right now.”
According to Lawson, her agency’s approach at this stage is to ensure that the animals do not starve to death.
“Our priority has literally changed from rescue to providing food, water and shelter and putting things in place at least for the next couple of days until someone can guide us further,” she told The Sunday Gleaner.
In batting for the care and protection of these animals, Lawson noted that children were appropriately provided for in law if their guardians were to be detained, but nothing is in place to protect animals in similar matters.
“We have it [laws] for the children; they were taken care of the same day. We need the same thing for the animals because they are living creatures,” she stressed, pointing to efforts to find state accommodation for children found at the location when the police intervened on Sunday.
“With the livestock right now, my plan was to take them to the Kingston and St Andrew Municipal Corporation pound, because they have the facility to hold livestock, or we could have taken them to Montpelier, here in St James, which is a government facility for livestock,” Lawson shared.
She argued that the country’s justice system is not always swift and will need to ensure clear and precise legislation for matters of this nature, especially in cases where the court proceedings can take years before reaching a trial date.
“If it’s going to be a year or two, what is going to happen to these animals for that time period?” she asked. “I do believe strongly, if nothing else, what this has proven is that there needs to be some consideration in terms of laws put in place quickly to deal with that.”