Has Quebec’s dangerous dog Bill 128 gone too far?
Dog Bill 128 – Just less than two weeks after the deadline passed for owners to register their pit-bulls or ‘pit-bull-type’ dogs in Montreal, the Quebec government announced its intention to table legislation banning ‘dangerous dogs’. The proposed Dog Bill 128 took it even further than Montreal’s controversial bylaw that outlaws the acquisition of any ‘pit-bull type’ dogs – as Dog Bill 128 would ban several breeds and types of dogs listed as ‘potentially dangerous’ including Pit Bulls, American Pit Bull Terriers, American Staffordshire Terriers, Staffordshire Bull Terriers, Rottweilers, certain cross-breeds and all dogs trained to protect, guard or attack.Dog Bill 128 has many dog owners outraged and is even receiving international attention, most of it extremely negative.
Unlike the City of Laval’s bylaw which does not include ‘breed-specific legislation’ (BSL) and puts the full responsibility on the owners to keep their dogs under control and does not assume every dog is dangerous – both Montreal and Quebec have taken it down a very jarring road, a road that has outraged animal advocates everywhere. And with reason.
Despite the protests and the expert advice from the Montreal SPCA and veterinarians, despite the majority of those polled who were against it and the cry from lawyers and legal experts, Montreal’s Mayor Coderre still maintains his ‘one muzzle for all’ approach – and it looks like Quebec is trying to tighten that muzzle. The city’s bylaw has been in and out of the courts, first being suspended and then being reinstated – and soon to be challenged again. The Montreal SPCA is currently consulting with its legal team to assess how the proposed Bill-128 will affect them, as well as its current court case against the City of Montreal.
Dr. Gabrielle Carriere, the head veterinarian at the Montreal SPCA said, “Large proportion of dogs and puppies coming into shelters could be targeted by the ban and therefore cannot be adopted out… the Quebec government is essentially forcing shelters to systematically put to death, dogs and puppies they take in, regardless of the animals’ health or behaviour.”
Municipalities will have the jurisdiction to euthanize dogs who have attacked or bitten people and caused them serious injuries under the proposed law.
Alanna Devine, director of animal advocacy at the SPCA said they will be doing everything in their power to ensure that the bill, as drafted, is not passed, and will work with the public and experts to convince the government to opt instead for fair, effective and evidence-based solutions to the problem of dangerous dogs in Quebec.”
There is a ‘grandfather clause’ built into the new law which would protect dogs currently owned, but the SPCA said ‘it won’t help dogs who end up in shelters’.
Both Montreal and Quebec refer back to an attack that took the life of 55 year old woman in her Pointe-aux-Trembles back yard last June. Following her tragic death and previous attacks from ‘pit-bull types’ or other dog breeds for that matter, it was clear that action needed to be taken – but now everyone is asking how far did they really have to go?
In the meantime, Mayor Coderre’s ‘Canine Patrol Unit’ is already on the streets and Philippe Sabouron, a city spokesperson said that as of April 1st an ‘unregistered pit bull can be seized on the spot’.
The Canine Patrol consisting of eight patrollers, also have the mandate to enforce the ban which does not allow for the purchasing or adoption of pit bull-type dogs in Montreal. Last summer the city also hired a group of ‘roving’ animal-control patrols employees to enforce the bylaw in its nineteen boroughs – and they issued almost 1200 tickets in just a few months, mostly for not having a dog license or not having an animal on a leash. Montreal police officers can also issue tickets for animal-control bylaw offences.
If your dog wasn’t registered after April 1st, then it can be seized and the city will ‘try to find another home for him’. The city had said it won’t euthanize any unregistered pit bull-type dogs, but will remove them from Montreal – and now the message is mixed.
Fines for violating the by-law which also include dogs off leashes, loud barking and even uncleanliness, range from $300 to $600 or up to $500 to $700 if the infraction poses a threat to safety. Coderre’s Canine Patrol is responsible to ensure that the by-law is obeyed, including the mandatory microchipping and sterilization of the dog, and they also have the authority to inspect backyards to ensure dogs are safely confined within them.
A reader brought up an interesting point, questioning who is really to blame for all this. Pit Bulls are descendants of the English Bull-Baiting dog, bred to be fighting dogs – powerful enough to attack and lock on to the faces and heads of large animals like bulls and bears in the ‘Pit’. When Bull-Baiting dogs were finally outlawed in 1835, people started cross breeding them with smaller terriers in order to create a faster and more agile dog. They were trained to fight from the start – a horrible practice that unfortunately still goes on today in some areas. Today’s ‘Pit’ Bulls, while genetically predisposed to those behaviors, are not automatically dangerous dogs, but the development of their behavior very much depends on their environment and how they were treated and nurtured, which brings us back to the human factor.
Should the onus then be put solely on dog owners with the full responsibility to keep their dogs under control – and the governing bodies not assume every dog is dangerous? But the question of blame still does not address the real issue here – the welfare and lives of living, breathing creatures who share the world with us.