Appellate judges overturn lower court stay on enforcement
MONTREAL, Quebec––A three-judge panel from the Quebec Court of Appeals on December 1, 2016 allowed most parts of the Montreal pit bull ban adopted on September 27, 2016 to take immediate effect, overturning an October 5, 2016 stay on enforcement of the ban issued by Superior Court judge Louis J. Gouin.
“The regulation on animal control adopted by the City of Montreal to tighten the possession of pit bull-type dogs will be in effect until the court decides [a lawsuit challenging the substance of the ban] on the merits in several months,” reported Samuel Louis Perron of La Presse.
“Victory for Montreal”
“The stay order given by Louis J. Gouin has been broken by the highest court in the province, a victory for the City of Montreal,” Perron wrote. “However,” Perron cautioned, “the validity of the regulation has not yet been treated in substance by the courts. According to the three-judge Court of Appeals panel,” Perron summarized of the verdict, “Judge Gouin should have limited his stay order to ‘only contested provisions likely to cause irreparable harm, those relating to euthanasia and the whether an owner may reclaim an impounded pit bull-type dog.”
The appellate verdict requires the City of Montreal to “issue an administrative directive to ensure that no pit bull-type dog is euthanized,” pending the final decision on the Montreal SPCA lawsuit, “without proof that the dog is ‘dangerous, risky, wandering, dying, seriously injured or highly contagious.” Also, explained Perron, “the owner of an impounded pit bull may reclaim the dog under certain conditions, if the dog is not ‘risky or dangerous.”
Added CBC/Radio Canada, “The city has also agreed that pit bulls can be put up for adoption if they are destined for homes outside of Montreal. A new muzzle requirement for pit bulls will be applied. However, the city has clarified that pit bulls and pit bull-type dogs need only be muzzled when they are outdoors.”
The pending lawsuit against the substance of the Montreal pit bull ban, to be heard in early 2017, was jointly filed by the Montreal SPCA and Montreal SPCA event coordinator Odette Lours, in her capacity as an individual pit bull owner.
Among other pit bull advocates denouncing the Montreal ban was Lara Lea Trump, wife of U.S. President-elect Donald Trump’s son Eric, who on September 28, 2016 posted via Instagram that “laraleatrumpl was so saddened to hear about the decision in #Montreal to ban #pitbull breed dogs.”
Lavaltrie ordinance upheld
The Quebec Court of Appeals ruled a week after Quebec Superior Court Justice Guy Cournoyer on November 25, 2016 upheld a breed-specific animal control ordinance adopted in 2015 by the City of Lavaltrie, a residential community located alongside the St. Lawrence River, about 30 miles northeast of the Montreal metropolitan area.
A pit bull owner who had been cited for violating the Lavaltrie ordinance argued that the definition of a pit bull included in the ordinance was improperly vague.
Cournoyer responded that the Lavaltrie definition, banning “bull terrier breeds” such as the “Staffordshire Bull Terrier, American Bull Terrier, American Staffordshire Terrier (Pit Bull),” and any dogs mixed with those breeds, and/or dogs who look “substantially similar” to those breeds, is quite clear enough.
Montreal SPCA claims “no settled precedent”
“Cournoyer based his decision on the precedent set by Cochrane vs. Ontario, the Ontario Appeal Court ruling that upheld that province’s pit bull ban,” the CBC reported. “The City of Montreal’s lawyers argue that the Cochrane decision also justifies Montreal’s pit bull ban. However, the Montreal SPCA says Montreal’s definition of a pit bull is slightly broader than Lavaltrie’s,” the CBC report continued.
“The validity of the bylaw itself wasn’t challenged in the Lavaltrie case, just the ticket was being contested,” Montreal SPCA lawyer Sophie Gaillard e-mailed to the CBC.
“Many of the arguments we invoked to challenge the Montreal bylaw weren’t raised at all in the Lavaltrie case,” Gaillard claimed, “which means that there is no settled precedent on these issues.”
Pit bull registered as “boxer”
The Montreal city council approved the pit bull ban by a vote of 37-23, with the strong endorsement of mayor Denis Coderre, three months after Christiane Vadnais, 55, of the Pointe-aux-Trembles borough, was in June 2016 killed by a neighbor’s pit bull who had invaded her back yard.
The pit bull owner, Franklin Junior Frontal, had registered the dog as a “boxer” to evade a pit bull ban that was already in effect in the borough of Anjou, La Presse investigative reporter Marie Claude Malboeuf discovered.
Registering the pit bull as a boxer led to widespread claims, still amplified by pit bull advocates, that the dog was not a pit bull.
No criminal charges
A spokesperson for the Crown Proscutor’s office, Jean-Pascal Boucher, on November 23, 2016 told media that Frontal would not be criminally charged.
The victim’s sister, Lise Vadnais, told CBC/Radio Canada that police and a prosecutor met with the Vadnais family “and explained that their problem was with proving criminal intent. In order to move forward with charges,” Vadnais said she was told, “the Crown would have had to prove Frontal was aware of the danger the dog posed and was negligent about it.”
Radio Canada attacks ANIMALS 24-7
While most Montreal area media and most of the public have favored the pit bull ban, CBC/Radio Canada has editorially opposed it. In that context Bouchra Ouatik of the Radio Canada program Découverte alleged on September 9, 2016 that the ANIMALS 24-7 log of fatal and disfiguring dog attacks in the U.S. and Canada, kept since 1982, is “very far from reality.”
Ouatik based her claim chiefly on a projection by the Agency for Healthcare Research & Quality of the the U.S. Department of Health, not to be confused with an actual case log, that “in 2008 in the United States, nearly 9,500 people were hospitalized for dog bites, and forty died of their wounds,” compared to the ANIMALS 24-7 fatality log of 16 authenticated cases in 2008.
Ouatik went on to compare the 2008 projection, for a single year, to a crude average of the ANIMALS 24-7 data covering 34 years, during which fatal and disfiguring dog attacks, especially by pit bulls, increased exponentially. The sum of 32 total dog attack deaths, 18 of them by pit bulls, documented during the entire time frame 1982-1992, was equaled or exceeded by the sum from pit bulls alone in 2012, 2014, and 2015.
Compared “severe bites” to disfigurements
Ouatik further contended that the ANIMALS 24-7 data “underestimates the attacks by other breeds than pit bulls” by comparing what the Texas Department of Health of Texas considered to be “severe” bites in a 2000 report to the numbers of disfiguring injuries that ANIMALS 24-7 reports, which are at approximately the one-bite-in-10,000 level of harm done.
In addition, Ouatik objected that ANIMALS 24-7, after listing the data for each recognized breed or breed type individually, including “unidentified” for dogs of unknown type, groups together the statistics for dogs of similar characteristics in data summary lines. These summary lines cover pit bulls and pit mixes; all dogs of molosser breeds including pit bulls and pit mixes, boxers, mastiffs, and their many derivatives such as Cane Corso; “wolf-like” breeds, including the so-called “northern breeds,” German shepherds, and miscellaneous other breeds sometimes sold as purported “wolf hybrids”; and chows, who are a combination of molosser and “northern breed” ancestry.
No overlooked deaths identified
Seeking correction or retraction of Ouatik’s many misrepresentions, ANIMALS 24-7 appealed to CBC/Radio Canada ombudsman Guy Gendron, who on November 22, 2016 whitewashed the whole complaint.
Gendron overlooked that neither Ouatik nor any of her sources identified even one victim of a fatal dog attack by name, place of death, or date of death, killed by any type of dog, who was not already included in the ANIMALS 24-7 log.
Gendron, like Ouatik, also overlooked that even if the ANIMALS 24-7 log records only 2% of the total number of dog attack disfigurements, as Ouatik contended, this would make it nonetheless a sampling of approximately 11 times the statistical strength of the ongoing Boston Nurses Study, begun in 1976 and considered the gold standard in women’s health research.
The Boston Nurses Study has incorporated data from 280,000 women over 40 years. This, had all the participants been surveyed in a single year, would still have been only 0.00178% of the total U.S. female population of 157 million, or one woman in 561.
Concerning the validity of the ANIMALS 24-7 log summary lines, Gendron wandered completely off topic and went to considerable trouble to establish that the Cane Corso is a molosser breed, exactly as listed by ANIMALS 24-7––a fact never in dispute.