CHARLOTTE AMALIE — Senators met in the Health, Hospitals and Human Services Committee to update and improve the current Virgin Islands Veterinary Practice Act.
Committee chair Sen. Nereida “Nellie” Rivera-O’Reilly took testimony from people working in veterinary services, the Virgin Islands Police Department (VIPD) and the Department of Agriculture.
Det. Daniel Rodriguez, the only full-time animal cruelty investigator in the territory who works exclusively in St. Croix told the committee that there have been 78 cases of animal cruelty to date since his office was created on May 26, 2017.
Rodriguez said that there have been 28 cases of animal neglect, 32 cases of animal neglect first-degree and 36 cases of animal neglect second-degree.
The animal cruelty investigator stole the show when he showed 44 slide pictures of the evidence in some of the cases, including a YouTube video which showed a young man on St. Croix putting something flammable on a live chicken and then lighting it.
“Despite the well-recognized fact that animal abuse goes hand-in-hand with community and domestic violence and abuse, animal welfare remains a low priority,” Dr. Bethany Bradford, director of veterinary service for the Department of Agriculture and a member of the veterinary board.
St. Croix Sen. Sammuel Sanes described himself as an animal lover who keeps dog, cats and chickens at his residence said that he agreed with Dr. Bradford and that people who hurt animals are mentally disturbed.
St. Croix Sen. Kurt Vialet, vice chairman of the committee, said that Virgin Islands citizens need to be better educated about what animal abuse is — because many people don’t know that they are being abusive to animals.