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Charlotte Amalie
Tuesday, August 16, 2022


Aug. 29, 2001 – The Humane Society of St. Thomas has just received a donation of almost two acres of land, and the timing couldn't be better, board member Richard H. Dollison told Rotary Club II Wednesday in his presentation on the animal rights bill scheduled for a hearing before the Senate Rules Committee on Thursday afternoon.
The land, pledged by an anonymous donor, is on Weymouth Rhymer Highway across from Market Square East, Dollison said.
In Nadir, where the Humane Society facilities are now located, "The V.I. government intends to take two of our buildings and about half of the land," he said. "We don't know when this will happen, but they assure us it will happen."
Government authorities say the land is needed for the flood-control project involving the infamous Nadir "bridge to nowhere," said Dollison, who is treasurer of the Humane Society.
Society members "are very excited" about relocating, and a campaign to raise funds for the new shelter will soon get under way, he said. Plans call for a facility that will accommodate three times the number of animals that the Nadir shelter can handle and that will allow the society to greatly expand its educational outreach programs.
Dollison, an attorney, spoke of the legal significance of the animal rights bill that is to go before the Senate Rules Committee at 3 p.m. Thursday on St. Thomas. Current law, he explained, makes animal abuse a misdemeanor, but it is such a weak law that it is largely ignored. To arrest someone on a misdemeanor charge, he said, an officer has to have witnessed the crime.
The new bill, sponsored by Sen. Adlah "Foncie" Donastorg, makes first-degree animal cruelty a felony punishable by imprisonment not exceeding five years and a fine of not less than $1,000. Second-degree animal cruelty would be a misdemeanor punishable by imprisonment not exceeding one year and a fine of $500.
First-degree abuses include killing or torturing of an animal or causing a minor to do so, cropping of an animal's ears or tail by anyone other than a veterinarian, vehicular hit and run, and training dogs or other animals to fight, except for fighting cocks.
Second-degree abuses include intentional neglect. The bill would allow any person to enter property to tend to an animal who has been without food or water for more than 12 hours and not be liable for unauthorized entry.
The bill also establishes an Animal Abuse Fund in the amount of $100,000 annually that is to consist of collected fines, gifts and grants, to be administered by the Finance Department commissioner. The money is to be used solely to reimburse unpaid expenses by the animal shelters and veterinarians.
Dollison pleaded for his listeners to contact senators in support of the bill. He said passage of the measure is "one piece of the puzzle in addressing deviant, violent, anti-social behavior." He cited statistics on the connection between animal abuse and domestic violence. An important part of the shelter's job, he said, is to educate children as well as adults about caring for animals. For lack of funding, the shelter doesn't have the staff to operate as thorough an educational program as it would like to have.
Dollison said the Humane Society shelter is open every day and never refuses to take in an animal, and after hours there is a drop-off kennel. He said the shelter currently houses about 30 dogs and 25 cats. Last year, it took in just under 2,500 animals, about seven for each day of the year. About one-fourth of them were adopted.
It is the society's goal to eliminate the problem of unwanted animals, Dollison said. The society conducts a free neutering program each year in conjunction with local veterinarians.
Gov. Charles W. Turnbull recently signed into law an appropriation to the V.I. Agriculture Department to contract for the services of the territory's animal care organizations. It specifies $75,000 each for the Humane Society of St. Thomas and the St. Croix Animal Shelter, and $10,000 for the Animal Care Center of St. John. Dollison said he was aware of the legislation but hadn't known the governor had signed it.
Hubert Brumant, the shelter manager, told the Source on Wednesday afternoon that he, too, was unaware the measure had been signed.
Brumant has been invited by the Rules Committee to testify at Thursday's hearing, along with Sgt. Elton Grant of the St. Thomas-St. John Police K-9 Corps, St. Thomas animal activist Rita Roth, Mary Edwards of the St. Croix Animal Shelter, V.I. National Park Supt. John H. King, and Laura Michalski of Family Resource Center on St. Thomas.

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