Montreal legislation expected to pass in September 2016; provincial legislation likely to be introduced
(Part I of a 2-part series. See also Pit bull lobby exposed in Quebec as never before.)
MONTREAL, Quebec––Montreal mayor Denis Coderre on August 16, 2016 affirmed to La Presse investigative reporter Marie-Claude Malboeuf that enough city councillor are committed to banning pit bulls to ensure passage of a city-wide ban at the September 26, 2016 council meeting.
The three other Montreal daily newspapers and all major electronic media serving Montreal confirmed Malbouef’s report within 24 hours––and indicated that the Quebec provincial government headed by Philippe Couillard of the Liberal Party is likely to prohibit pit bulls as well. Currently in summer recess, the Quebec National Assembly is to reconvene on September 20, 2016.
Health minister Gaétan Barrette has outspokenly called for excluding pit bulls from Quebec. Public security minister Martin Coiteux has taken a similar but more nuanced position.
Cities not waiting
Quebec cities including Anjou, Brossard, Candiac, Drummondville, La Prairie, Longueuil, Outremont, Rimouski, Saguenay, and Senneville are already enforcing breed-specific clauses in their dangerous dog laws to ban pit bulls.
Three other cities––Bromont, Chateauguay, Sherbrooke, and Verdun––have recently repealed pit bull bans, but are reportedly looking for other ways to reinforce their dangerous dog laws after recent attacks.
Quebec City mayor Régis Labeaume called for banning pit bulls in June but waffled in July. The Bromont, Chateauguay, Sherbrooke, and Quebec City councils are all said to be waiting for direction from the Quebec National Assembly. Verdun, a borough of Montreal, will be subject to the pending Montreal legislation.
In Montreal, the Montreal Gazette summarized on August 18, 2016, “As of the end of this year, it will be illegal to own a pit bull-type dog,” specifically “American Staffordshire terriers, Staffordshire bull terriers, American pit bull terriers, and any mixed breed dogs that have a part of those breeds, or a dog with similar physical characteristics,” unless the owner has obtained a “special ownership permit.”
Explained the the Montreal Gazette, “Those applying for such permits will have to provide documentation proving they do not have a criminal record, in particular for violent crimes, and will have to prove the dog has been sterilized, has a microchip implanted,” and has been vaccinated against rabies.
Violations may be punished with fines ranging from $300 to $750, depending on the degree of risk presented to public safety.
“Safety is a right”
“In the [Canadian] Charter of Rights and Freedoms,” Montreal mayor Coderre said, “safety is a right. We are working to ensure the safety of our populace. I know there will be certain lawyers who will be salivating,” Coderre acknowledged, “because they say we do not have the right to ban people [from keeping pit bulls] based on their criminal background. But I think we did our homework, and I think that yes, a dog can be used as a weapon,” which convicted criminals are not allowed to possess, “and we had to respond to that.”
Momentum to prohibit pit bulls has built throughout Quebec since a neighbor’s pit bull killed Christiane Vadnais, 55, at her Pointe-aux-Trembles home on June 8, 2016. The seven-year-old pit bull had reportedly attacked two people on previous occasions.
Vadnais’ death followed many other pit bull attacks, chiefly in and around Montreal, which have raised repeated calls since 2010 for pit bulls to be banned.
The neighboring province of Ontario banned pit bulls in 2005, allowing pit bulls who were already licensed, vaccinated, and sterilized to remain for the rest of their lives if kept securely confined and leashed when outdoors.
Reported pit bull bites in Toronto, the largest city in Ontario, dropped from 168 in 2004, from a licensed population of 935 pit bulls, to 112 in 2005, as the licensed pit bull population soared to 1,411 under pressure of the law.
Despite open resistance to the law from the Toronto Humane Society, which has continued to offer pit bulls for adoption, the licensed pit bull population has tapered down to just 338 by 2014, who inflicted 19 bites.
But the Ontario law has been interpreted in Toronto as applying only to dogs narrowly defined as “pit bull terriers, Staffordshire bull terriers, American Staffordshire terriers, and American pit bull terriers,” according to Eric Andrew-Gee and Joel Eastwood of the Toronto Star, allowing the populations of closely related breeds to soar.
Licensed boxers, as of 2014, had increased from 263 to 839, while licensed cane corsos, a pit bull/mastiff mix, increased from 14 to 146.
Critics of the Ontario law often point out that total reported bites in Toronto have increased slightly since 2005, without mentioning that the total licensed dog population has more than doubled.
Montreal SPCA opposition
Montreal SPCA director Alanna Devine, long an outspoken pit bull advocate, tried in 2011 to oblige several Montreal boroughs to rescind existing pit bull bans as a condition of the SPCA continuing to house animals impounded from those boroughs.
Led by Devine, the Montreal SPCA has organized protests against the proposed Montreal and Quebec provincial bans of pit bulls, contending that the legislation will oblige the SPCA to euthanize more dogs.
Killer dog was a boxer?
Devine and Humane Society International, the international affiliate of the Humane Society of the U.S., have also alleged that the dog who killed Vadnais was not a pit bull, despite eyewitness identifications, including by police who shot the dog at the scene in order to approach Vadnais’ body.
Summarized CBC Montreal, “Humane Society International obtained a copy of the registration documents for the dog, owned by Franklin Junior Frontal, which states his dog was a boxer.”
Added the report, however, “Frontal’s lawyer, Audrey Amzallag,” also identified in some reports as Audrey Lovett-Reid, “told CBC News she could not confirm whether the permit labeling the dog a boxer was for the animal involved in the attack.”
In addition, claiming pit bulls are actually boxers is a common ploy of pit bull owners to evade paying higher insurance premiums.
But it was again Marie-Claude Malboeuf of La Presse who a few days later revealed the truth, as discovered by the police investigation of Christiane Vadnais’ death: Franklin Junior Frontal registered his pit bull as a boxer to evade the existing and enforced Anjou ban on pit bulls.