Four-legged friends: dogs on Bermuda

The first dog was landed on Bermuda in 1609, and was probably a Spaniel called “Finder” or “Salty”: the ship’s dog of the Sea Venture. I don’t actually know the name, those are guesses based on the fact that medieval dogs were frequently named on characteristics. Ship’s dogs were used for retrieving things lost overboard, taking messages between ships, and hunting when ashore. Most definitely working dogs. The main need for a working dog on Bermuda in 2015 would probably be a drug-sniffing dog at the airport – they did have one when we first arrived but I haven’t seen him since. Neither have I seen any Guide Dogs for blind persons. But there are plenty of dogs on the island, most living quiet and happy lives, but some reaching headlines every now and then.

So what do you do if you want a dog on Bermuda?

Two websites might be sensible starting points:

Bermuda SPCA: http://www.spca.bm

Government regulations on animals: http://www.animals.gov.bm/portal/server.pt

If you are coming to live on the island and already own a dog then you will need an import certificate, a microchip and vaccinations.

The import certificate must be dated no earlier than 10 days before landing your dog and to get this document you will need a health certificate for the dog, original vaccination certificates and evidence of tick and flea treatment on the day of examination. There are no quarantine regulations, but certain countries of origin require a minimum of two rabies vaccines and certificates to confirm no contact with foot and mouth within previous 30 days. The government website suggests that dogs less than 10 months old do not qualify for entry onto Bermuda, but it is unclear whether this applies to dogs from UK.

Dogs and cats are subject to import customs duties: 25% plus a 1.1% wharfage fee. Now this is based on the value of the dog so you will need original evidence of the purchase of the dog and price paid.

There are dog breeders on the island, however, and there is a pet shop in Hamilton with the most adorable puppies. (For my RSPCA friends I am not advocating buying puppies for pet shops, just commenting on their cuteness). The SPCA have dogs “looking for forever homes” but they also comment that they have a long waiting list for adopting dogs.

However you acquire the dog, it will need a licence which is $25 per year if the dog is neutered but $115 per year if not. Unlicensed dogs may be destroyed.

Like UK, there are certain breeds of dog that are banned on Bermuda. It is far too sensitive an issue for me to venture into but just to state, pit-bull dogs are prohibited and will be dealt with harshly if found unlicensed on the island. In 2012 the newspaper revealed there were 1300 unlicensed pit-bulls on the island – but given these dogs are kept below the radar I have doubts about the validity of the figure.

There are some rules you will need to be aware of:

  • Dogs must be kept on a leash
  • Dogs are not allowed on beaches during Summer months, 1st April to 31st September.
  • Special permits are needed of you have more than 2 dogs on your premises.  Note that “premises” includes other households on the plot and requires the landlords permission. This multi-dog permit is specific to the dogs, owner and the address.
  • There are fines for being found in breach of these rules : $50 for an unleashed dog, $100 for a stray dog and $200 for a noisy barking dog, which requires only one neighbour to make a complaint.

Now I have owned dogs, and numerous other pets alongside the children, but I am not sure dogs are really a good idea on Bermuda, or indeed that Bermuda is best set up for dogs. It can be VERY hot, there aren’t acres of fields and parks for exercise and the dog can never run free. But thats just my opinion and I am sure there are hundreds of responsible dog owners who will work around the particular problems posed by Bermuda-life.

My landlord has an amusing story of his dog being taken to court for chasing ducks across Harrington Sound onto land owned by the Zoo … I cannot tell it like he does, but he had me in stitches of amazed disbelief.

Useful contacts for dog-owners:

Hermione, my first dog

Hermione, my first dog

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