Montreal·CBC Explains

Quebec's new dangerous dog law comes into effect today. Here's what you need to know

Under the law, municipalities have to enforce the province's regulations, which include ordering dangerous dogs to be euthanized. A municipality can also pass its own stricter rules, if it so chooses.

Doctors, vets will need to report bites, among other new measures

A potentially dangerous dog must be sterilized, microchipped and have all their rabies vaccines up to date, among other measures. (EyeEm/Getty Images)

Dog owners across Quebec are now subject to new rules, after the province's dangerous dog legislation came into effect Tuesday.

The rules, first announced last December, are aimed at preventing dog attacks and maulings.

Under the law, municipalities are required enforce the province's regulations, which includes ordering dangerous dogs to be euthanized. A municipality can also pass its own stricter rules. Montreal adopted its own bylaw in 2018.

What do the changes mean for dog owners? Here are some of the big takeaways.

Vets and doctors have to report dog bites

Doctors and veterinarians will be required to report dog bites.

If a person is bitten, the doctor who treats them has to tell the municipality about the bite.

In the case of a veterinarian, if a dog that has been bitten is brought in for treatment, the veterinarian will be forced to report it.

Dr. Caroline Kilsdonk, the president of the Quebec Order of Veterinarians, said vets can report bites that happen in the vet's office or waiting room.

She said vets will probably not report small bites that can happen during an examination, since the dog can be frightened or in pain.

"[But if] we're doing a basic manipulation and the dog bites four or five times, you know, it's not proportional," she said. "So that could be reported."

People who have aggressive dogs and seek out veterinary advice may also be reported if their dog has bitten before, Kilsdonk said.

Once a bite is reported to a municipality, the municipality will order an assessment by a veterinarian to see if the dog is actually dangerous.

"Dog owners with dogs who bite will want help from veterinarians that are experts on dog behaviour," she said. "[But] there's a possibility that the veterinarian will have to report."

Dogs deemed dangerous will face restrictions

If a dog is deemed potentially dangerous, restrictions on the dog will apply.

A potentially dangerous dog must be sterilized, microchipped and have all its rabies vaccines up to date. The dog will also need to wear a muzzle in all public places.

The animal will also be prohibited from being alone with kids under the age of 10 without adult supervision. 

If the dog owner's home does not have a fence, or does not have a fence that will adequately contain the animal, other measures will be required. There must also be a sign warning people that a potentially dangerous dog is on the property.

If a dog is declared potentially dangerous in one municipality, the ruling applies to the entirety of Quebec.

Dominique Alain lost her triceps in after being attacked by three dogs last spring. The incident left her disfigured and left her arm weak. (Denis Gervais/Radio-Canada)

Dogs can be euthanized under specific circumstances

If a dog bites or attacks a person, leading to serious injury or death, the municipality can order that the dog be euthanized. 

A serious injury is defined as a physical injury that could result in death or "significant physical consequences" to the person.

The rules also leave the door open to euthanasia if the dog presents a risk to the "health of public security" of the population.

What if an owner doesn't follow the rules?

There are penalties for owners who fail to comply with the new rules.

The owner can have their dog seized and be banned from owning or keeping a dog for a determined period of time. 

Owners can also face hefty fines, up to $2,500 depending on the infraction. If an owner hinders someone enforcing the regulation, including by giving "deceiving" statements, the fine can go up to $5,000.

Fines can also double if it applies to a dog deemed potentially dangerous.

Will this actually make things safer?

Kilsdonk, the president of the Order of Veterinarians, thinks so. She said there has been a "major improvement" in how governments tackle the question of dangerous dogs.

"There was some level of just letting things go, and some municipalities did not have any regulations. Some did not apply it seriously," she said.

She said that most dog attacks in recent years took place in areas that did not have basic regulations for dealing with dangerous dogs. If there were rules in place, some of those attacks would not have happened, she said.

Kilsdonk also said there was some concern about how veterinarians are supposed to get in touch with their municipalities, since every city and town will likely have a different system.

But she said she's optimistic that things will be better than they were before.

"I think just the fact that now we will have a basic regulation everywhere … that there will be an improvement."

With files from CBC Daybreak

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