Proposed provincial pit bull ban introduced in April 2017 remains pending
MONTREAL, Quebec––The November 6, 2017 upset defeat of incumbent Montreal mayor Denis Coderre by challenger Valerie Plante is “A devastating loss to the people of Montreal and victims of pit bull attacks everywhere,” the victim advocacy organization National Pit Bull Victim Awareness predicts, as Plante “will proceed to remove the recent restrictions on pit bulls” pushed through by Coderre in 2016.
Plante, of the Project Montreal party, is herself a prominent member of a Facebook group called Montreal Pit Bull.
Plante has pledged to follow the advice of Project Montreal animal welfare critic and pit bull advocate Sterling Downey, who has opposed the Coderre bylaw since it was first introduced.
Slow motion in Quebec National Assembly
Any pit bull legislation adopted in Montreal may be superseded by Quebec provincial Bill 128, introduced in April 2017 to enable province-wide bans on pit bulls and other dangerous dog breeds.
“I tell you right away: it is the government’s intention, once Bill 128 is passed, to ban pitbull-type dogs,” Quebec minister of public security Martin Coiteux said in April 2017.
But Bill 128, initially expected to be in effect by the end of summer, remains pending in the Quebec National Assembly, and may be jeopardized by the regime change in Montreal.
(See Quebec introduces toughest dangerous dog law in North America.)
Acting in defiance of Bill 128, the Montreal suburb of Châteauguay in July 2017 repealed a pit bull ban which had stood for nearly 30 years, but had rarely been enforced. Instead, Châteauguay introduced a non-breed-specific ordinance which carries a maximum penalty of $2,000 if a dog attacks someone, but does nothing to prevent attacks by dogs who have not previously exhibited dangerous behavior––which would include about half of all pit bulls who kill or disfigure someone.
Coderre, the first Montreal mayor to be ousted after just one term since 1960, lost to Plante by 27,300 votes. Only some of the difference could be ascribed to voter turnout declining from 44% when Coderre was elected in 2013 to 41% when he lost.
Coderre was politically damaged by promoting a race for Formula E electric cars in downtown Montreal during the summer of 2017, which ended with 20,000 of the 45,000 spectator tickets being given away for free.
Did pit bull ban hurt Coderre?
“A poll showed many Montrealers found him arrogant,” assessed Benjamin Shingler of CBC News, “and his hasty efforts to legislate Montreal’s caleche [horse-drawn carriage] industry and ban pit bull dogs also cast him in a negative light.”
That the pit bull ban hurt Coderre is questionable, since it was favored by 70% of the CROP-La Presse survey taken in June 2016, two weeks after 55-year-old Christiane Vadnais was fatally mauled by a neighbor’s dog in her backyard in the Montreal borough of Pointe-aux-Trembles.
The pit bull ban was also favored by 49%, opposed by 44% , in a survey of 808 voters done in October 2016 for the Montreal Gazette, which editorially opposed the pit bull ban.
Bylaw changes likely
The likely-to-be-repealed bylaw “prohibits Montrealers from adopting new pit bull-type dogs,” explained Laura Marchand of CBC News, as the November 6, 2017 approached, “and people who already owned one before the bylaw went into effect will need a special permit to keep their dog,” effective on January 1, 2018 if the bylaw still stands. Pit bulls “must wear a muzzle in public, and large dogs of all breeds must also wear a harness.
“Project Montréal would keep some aspects of the new bylaw: it supports mandatory licensing for both cats and dogs, for instance,” Marchand continued. “Project Montréal holds up Calgary’s Responsible Pet Ownership Bylaw as a model worth emulating. The Montreal SPCA also approves of the Calgary model, but it says there has to be money to back up putting in place those kind of measures. Montreal invested $1.29 million in animal services last year, the SPCA said, compared to $127 million by the City of Calgary.”
Calgary “model” sees dog attacks nearly quadruple
Despite investing 100 times more money in animal control than Montreal, however, Calgary has a comparatively poor record in promoting public safety.
Points out National Post columnist and frequent ANIMALS 24-7 guest columnist and book reviewer Barbara Kay, “Dog attacks in Calgary went from 58 in 2009 to 201 in 2014, a disproportionate number of them by pit bulls. The chief promoter of the Calgary model is a pit bull advocate,” Bill Bruce, “who, during his tenure as animal services director, in a flagrant conflict of interest, sat on the board of an activist group whose mission is to defend pit bulls at any cost to animals and humans.”
Enforcement delayed, undercut
Enforcement of the Coderre ban on pit bulls meanwhile was delayed repeatedly while the Coderre administration fought the Montreal SPCA legal challenges.
Enforcement was also undercut in a variety of ways by Montreal public officials.
In August 2017, for example, an advocate for the homeless named Guylain Levasseur, who lives in his truck, was given a citation carrying a fine of $1,034 for keeping an unregistered “pit bull-type dog.”
Dogo Argentino not a “pit bull-type dog”?!
The fine was waived because Levasseur turned out to have registered the dog as a Dogo Argentino, a pit bull/mastiff cross which is generally recognized as a “bully breed,” meaning a “pit bull-type dog.”
Montreal media reporting about the Levasseur case failed to mention that in April 2017 a pit bull and a Dogo Argentino, who had previously attacked other dogs, mauled a five-year-old boy in Saint-Lin-Laurentides, northwest of Montreal.
Quebec City media, however, did note that a Dogo Argentino who repeatedly injured other dogs and terrorized a young mother and her baby in the Quebec suburb of L’Ancienne-Lorette, “has physiological aspects that resemble the pit bull.”
Later in August 2017, 520 Montreal residents were warned to remove their pit bulls from the city because they had failed to complete their applications to keep a pit bull.
Required were certification that each pit bull had been sterilized, vaccinated against rabies, and microchipped, and that the owners were certified by the Montreal Police Department as having not been convicted of any offense “related to violence, theft, trafficking narcotics and carrying a firearm in the last five years,” summarized Romain Schue of Metro, a leading Montreal tabloid.
The warning was rescinded within days, and the deadline for compliance was extended until December 21, 2017. It is now likely to be lifted entirely.
Finally, on October 3, 2017, Montreal coroner Evan Lichtblau shocked the Vadnais family by using the inquest report into the Vadnais attack to rip the Coderre bylaw.
Summarized CBC News, “Results of a DNA test cited in the report found the dog was 87.5% American Staffordshire Terrier, a breed associated with pit bulls. But Lichtblau stopped short of identifying the dog as a pit bull.
“Lise Vadnais,” sister of pit bull attack victim Christiane Vadnais, “slammed the coroner for not labelling the dog, saying he identifies the dog’s breed but doesn’t commit to it. She pointed out that by definition, pit bulls are mixed breeds — there is no such thing as a 100% pit bull.”
Lise Vadnais found particularly “inappropriate” Lichtblau’s conclusion, CBC News said, that “her sister died because she was simply in the wrong place at the wrong time.”
Christiane Vadnais was in her own back yard when a neighbor’s pit bull escaped from a cage, broke in through her fence, and killed her.
Named Lucifier, the pit bull had already injured two other people, and was so aggressive that owner Franklin Junior Frontal often kept him muzzled even indoors.