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Comprehensive animal welfare legislation finally tabled in Montreal

MONTRÉAL (June 19, 2018) – Goldwater, Dubé would like to congratulate their clients — more than 600 families residing in the city of Montreal — as well as the administration of Mayor Valérie Plante for the introduction of a responsible, science-based animal welfare bylaw, including the reversal of the previous breed-specific legislation (BSL).

Following the provincial government’s decision earlier this month to back away from “pit bull” bans and other forms of BSL, the City of Montreal confirmed that it would adopt a more progressive approach to animal control, modeled after the city of Calgary’s widely-praised system.

Highlights of the Plante administration’s plan include:

  • Tighter regulation of potentially dangerous dogs, from mandatory muzzling and vaccinations, to confiscation or even euthanasia of the animal in extreme cases
  • Dogs weighing more than 20 kg required to wear a harness or leash
  • Owners of dogs that city evaluators deem dangerous must be over 18 and not have a criminal record
  • Spiked collars and electro-shock collars banned
  • Mandatory sterilization for all dogs and cats as of January 2020
  • Pet stores to sell only shelter animals as of July 2019
  • Phasing out of the calèche/horse-drawn carriage industry by 2020

“I look forward to personally thanking Mayor Plante for keeping her campaign promises,” said Goldwater, Dubé senior partner Anne-France Goldwater. “This is a well-crafted and productive bylaw that will reduce the likelihood of violent incidents. I would have liked to see even more emphasis on education and prevention, but this is an excellent start!”

Goldwater, Dubé would also be favourable to mandatory animal welfare education for all Montrealers adopting animals.

The firm not only represented more than 600 families that included “pit bull” dogs as members but acted as lead counsel for the Coalition pour la promotion de la sécurité des personnes et des chiens (CPSPC), which presented a thorough memoire to Quebec’s National Assembly last month arguing for an evidence-based approach to animal control.

Several of Goldwater, Dubé’s attorneys, including Marie-France Ouimet, Jessica Apollon-Auguste and Me Goldwater herself, spent over a thousand hours defending the rights of pet owners pro bono. The team is relieved that many, if not most, of the CPSPC’s recommendations were either considered or fully adopted by the Plante administration.

Goldwater, Dubé would like to again extend condolences to the family and friends of Montrealer Christiane Vadnais, the woman killed in 2016 by a dog neglected by an irresponsible owner. It has been the firm’s position that breed-specific legislation will not prevent such tragedies in the future.

As the CPSPC’s memoire notes, “there is no scientific basis to discriminate between dog races, assuming that one race is riskier than another. On the contrary, what would be effective would be to follow the trend internationally to repeal laws of this sort; to not prohibit specific races but instead to focus on education and prevention surrounding ALL dangerous dogs.”

Not only should the Plante administration be congratulated for its scientifically sound approach to the treatment of dogs and cats, but the phasing out of the horse-drawn carriage industry in Montreal also signals a long overdue prioritization of basic, 21st-century animal welfare regulation.

Scenes in recent years of calèche horses collapsing while working in dangerous conditions highlighted for Montrealers the inherent cruelty of the practice, and Goldwater, Dubé would encourage entrepreneurs in the industry to humanely put their horses out to pasture as soon as possible. The firm has been in contact with many rescue centres that could potentially accommodate these horses to finally offer them, as Me Goldwater described it, “a well-deserved retirement.”