Quebec Bill 128 follows Montreal pit bull ban
QUEBEC, Quebec––Dog Bite Prevention Week 2017 and National Animal Care & Control Appreciation Week ended in Quebec much as the overlapping weeks began, with two dogs including a pit bull mauling a hapless victim.
In between, Quebec minister of public security Martin Coiteux on April 13, 2017 introduced the toughest and most comprehensive legislation in North America, Bill 128, to restrict possession of pit bulls and other dangerous dogs.
Week for cats upstaged by dog attacks
National Animal Care & Control Appreciation Week was originally declared by the U.S.-based organization Alley Cat Allies for the same week as Dog Bite Prevention week, April 9-15, “to call attention to the important role animal control agencies and animal shelters can play in improving the lives of cats.”
But, upstaged by a week including at least 25 disfiguring dog attacks, 17 by pit bulls and four by pit/mastiff variants, Alley Cat Allies on April 14 announced that National Animal Care & Control Appreciation Week would be extended throughout the month of April.
MS victim mauled in St. Jean
The first Quebec attack of Dog Bite Prevention Week 2017 came on April 11 in St. Jean sur Richelieu, an outlying Montreal suburb. A 60-year-old woman suffering from multiple sclerosis was mauled in her yard by her own Boston terrier and her 29-year-old son’s pit bull.
“It’s clear she will be in hospital for a long time,” police spokesperson Luc Tougas told media. “The two dogs bit her everywhere. She has skin torn from her arm and a few places around her head and face. There are pieces of skin missing.”
Police fatally shot the pit bull at the scene, and have recommended the Boston terrier for euthanasia as well. Both dogs apparently attacked the woman after she fell down.
Five-year-old mauled in Laurentians
The second Quebec attack of Dog Bite Prevention Week 2017 came in Saint-Lin-Laurentides, northwest of Montreal, where on April 13 a five-year-old boy was mauled by a pit bull and a Dogo Argentino while bicycling near his home.
The pit bull and a Dogo Argentino had reportedly been subject of previous complaints after making other forays from their yard, most recently on April 6, 2017. In 2016 they attacked another dog, animal control officer Vanessa Morin told Elizabeth Laplante of TVA News.
Earlier in the day, Quebec minister of public security Coiteux announced that the current Quebec government, headed by Philippe Couillard, has decided to “take the greatest means to ensure the safety of our people,” by introducing legislation pertaining to dangerous dogs going well beyond the recommendations of a working committee which had suggested only a generic law whose provisions would take effect only after a dog has already injured someone.
“I tell you right away: it is the government’s intention, once Bill 128 is passed, to ban pitbull-type dogs,” Coiteux. “It must be clear to everyone: that is what we are going to do once the law is passed. The government will pass a decree to that effect after the adoption of the bill, as soon as possible.”
Passage expected by summer
This will “probably be by the summer,” offered La Presse political writer Tommy Chouinard.
While the working committee did not recommend a breed-specific law, Coiteux elaborated, “the committee told us that pit bulls are particularly dangerous among dog breeds.”
In particular, Coiteux acknowledged, the government gave weight to the circumstances surrounding the unprovoked June 2016 fatal pit bull mauling of Christiane Vadnais, 55, in the Montreal borough of Pointe-aux-Trembles. Vadnais was killed by a neighbor’s pit bull, licensed as a boxer to evade a community breed ban, who broke into her back yard to attack her.
Criminals not allowed to keep dangerous dogs
Bill 128 will include a “grandfather clause” allowing pit bull owners to keep any pit bulls they have at the time of passage, except for owners who have been convicted of felonies including inciting racial or ethnic hatred, intimidation, criminal harassment, uttering threats, aggravated assault, kidnapping, sexual assault, robbery, carrying a weapon for an illegal purpose, drug production or trafficking, and possession of drugs for the purpose of trafficking.
Persons “who have committed serious Criminal Code offenses,” Coiteux said, “must have their pit bulls or other dangerous dogs euthanized at their own expense.”
People who have pit bulls but are subsequently convicted of any of the listed felonies are to lose their permission to keep the pit bulls.
People who are allowed to keep pit bulls must observe “very strict rules” for keeping them safely, Coiteux said, but did not offer details.
Humane societies as well as individuals may be fined
Violations, summarized La Presse writer Chouinard, may be punished with fines ranging from $500 to $10,000 for individuals, and from $1,000 to $20,000 for corporations such as guard dog rental agencies and humane societies.
“In the event of a second offense, these amounts shall be doubled,” Chouinard wrote.
Bill 128 does not mention any specific breeds of dog, but provides a structure within which the government may prohibit any breed by decree if the breed becomes problematic.
Expected to be listed immediately are “pit bulls, including American terrier pit bulls, American Staffordshires and Staffordshire bull terriers,” Coiteux explained, along with Rottweilers, pit bull and Rottweiler mixes, wolf hybrids, any dogs specifically trained for “protection, custody, combat or attack,” and any individual dogs designated as dangerous by a municipal government, except that dogs in the latter categories may be kept by special permit under strict conditions.
List of banned breeds “may evolve”
“That list may evolve in the future,” Coiteux said, “because the government will be able to use new statistics and new scientific literature to update it.”
Continued Chouinard of La Presse, “Bill 128 provides for compulsory reporting by veterinarians of bites caused by a dog, regardless of breed. The bill says a local municipality shall order the owner or custodian of a dog who has bitten or attacked a person, causing the person’s death, or has inflicted a serious injury on a person, to cause the dog to be euthanized. The municipality must euthanize such a dog whose owner is unknown or untraceable.
“In the case of a dog who has bitten or attacked a person or another animal, but not seriously, the municipality may declare it ‘potentially dangerous,’” meaning that strict management measures “will be imposed on the owners.
Cities may adopt tougher regulations
“The government allows municipalities to adopt tougher regulations, but not less, provided that they are compatible with Quebec legislation,” Chouinard added. “Municipalities will be responsible for enforcing the law and the provincial regulations. They will have the means to do so, according to Coiteux,” because the municipalities will retain the fines for violations, and the income from licensing dogs.
“Out of respect for the autonomy of the indigenous communities,” Coiteux said, Bill 128 will not automatically apply on Native American land, but tribal bands may elect to observe it if they choose to do so.
The proposed Quebec law exempts assistance dogs, police dogs, dogs used in wildlife law enforcement, and dogs used by private security agencies when in performance of their legally authorized duties.
Montreal SPCA declared opposition
The Montreal SPCA, already litigating against a pit bull ban adopted by the city of Montreal in September 2016, predictably declared opposition to Bill 128.
“We will be doing everything in our power to ensure that the bill, as drafted, is not passed,” said Montreal SPCA director of animal advocacy Alanna Devine.
“A large proportion of dogs and puppies coming into shelters could be targeted by the ban and therefore could not be adopted out,” added Montreal SPCA chief veterinarian Gabrielle Carriere.
“The Quebec government is essentially forcing shelters to systematically put to death dogs and puppies they take in, regardless of the animals’ health or behavior,” Carriere charged, overlooking that the pit bulls and other dogs of dangerous breeds who now fill the Montreal SPCA would not be arriving if they were not legally kept or bred in the first place, and if the Montreal SPCA itself was not importing pit bulls to offer for adoption.
The city of Montreal meanwhile estimated that about 1,200 of the estimated 1,400 pit bulls within the city boroughs (85%) have now been registered, as required by the September 2016 ordinance. Violators may be fined $300 for a first offense.
Pit bull owners were originally given to the end of 2016 to register their dogs. The deadline was later extended to March 31, 2017.
Pit bulls are about 3% of the licensed dog population in Montreal, and are believed to be about 3.5% of the total Montreal dog population.