The Quebec government signalled this week that the principle of breed-specific legislation (BSL) will be rejected as it updates the previous government’s dangerous dog legislation. After years of fighting, our firm, as well as the Coalition to Promote the Safety of People and Canines and thousands of citizens, are encouraged to see the main political parties in Quebec forming consensus on the inefficacy of bans on pit bull-type dogs.
This new law encourages progress in assuring the security of all Quebecers; those on two legs and four.
“I applaud the government's legislative initiative to make dog owners and guardians responsible for public security,” said Anne-France Goldwater, partner with Goldwater, Dubé. “It is the human who must ensure his or her dog is on leash (or better yet, in a harness that is less stressful for the dog's neck!). Remember: just as people are entitled to safety, dogs also deserve to be safe and well-cared for.”
Me Goldwater is equally relieved to see the positive reaction from the family of Christiane Vadnais, who suffered terrible trauma, and our thoughts are with them. Despite our disagreements with certain positions, we would like to thank Lise Vadnais for her participation in this democratic exercise. We would like to reassure the family that leaders of the animal rights community in Quebec have been working tirelessly for years, relying on the latest scientific research available, to ensure these tragedies do not occur again.
Going forward in Quebec, the responsibility to maintain public security falls on dog owners. They will have to register their animals with their municipalities and ensure they have been vaccinated for rabies, sterilized and equipped with a microchip. Dogs will have to wear their tags at all times, with a harness or muzzle, in addition to a leash, and only an owner capable of controlling the animal will be permitted to bring it to public spaces. The government, in placing responsibility on the owners as we suggested, empowers municipalities impose sanctions on irresponsible owners.
However, there is one serious concern with this week’s news.
The fact that municipalities could have the obligation to automatically order the euthanasia of a dog considered “dangerous” poses a problem. According to a survey by Léger Marketing, 164,000 dog bites occur every year in Quebec. If these figures are accurate, this aspect of the new regulations is simply inapplicable and will force shelters to change their missions to the point where they would begin to resemble an abattoir.
“This by-law empowers municipalities to "euthanize" a dog involved in a biting incident. This is excessive, and unnecessary. I would remind you that there are 168,000 dog bites per year in the province of Quebec. Does this mean we should be assassinating 168,000 dogs? That would be barbaric. A little common sense and proportionality should prevail.”
The rehabilitation of a dog is not only possible, it is an option government should advocate for. The behaviour of an animal is contingent on the environment in which it has evolved, that is to say the manner in which humans care for it. As suggested in the Shotta case, if a qualified person can demonstrate to the Court that they can take on the responsibility to rehabilitate the animal, it is incumbent on the Court to allow such a request to avoid the mistreatment of yet another dog.
"Our laws have changed in recent years to recognize the special status of animals and to make it a priority to protect their welfare. I hope the application of this law will be in step with those these developments. I hope the government will make sure this power to 'euthanize' is limited to truly urgent situations where this no available option to provide the animal refuge and rehabilitation."
To read our recommendations related to dangerous dog legislation, you can consult Goldwater, Dubé's research on the issue.