Quebec's changes to dangerous dog law draw criticism

Doctors will now be obligated to report serious dog bites, and veterinarians will have to report dogs they think pose a dangerous risk, under new rules introduced by the Quebec government Wednesday.

Dominique Alain, dog mauling victim, says the government lacks courage to tackle the real problem

Quebec's new legislation on dangerous dogs gives more responsibility to municipalities. (Ryan Remiorz/The Canadian Press)

Starting next year, doctors will have to report serious dog bites, and veterinarians will have to report dogs they think pose a risk to municipalities.

The changes are part of new rules introduced by the Quebec government Wednesday.

Public Security Minister Geneviève Guilbault said the province will compile the information reported by professionals in order to "give us better data regarding dog attacks."

"Hopefully it will prevent some tragic incidents," Guilbault said. 

"But it is important to remind everyone that the strictest measures will not eliminate all risk of dog attacks. So we have to remain vigilant."

The new rules, which amend the existing dog law, come into effect March 3, 2020.

Under the law, municipalities have to enforce the province's regulations, which include ordering dangerous dogs to be euthanized.

A municipality can pass its own stricter rules, if it so chooses.

Mauling victim 'disappointed'

Dominique Alain was jogging in Potton, Que., last March when three dogs attacked her, leaving her with extensive and permanent damage in her arms and legs. 

She said she is disappointed by the "lack of courage" demonstrated by the Quebec government, which she sees as "washing its hands" of the issue by pushing it onto the municipalities.

"Not all municipalities have the personnel to manage [the new rules]," she said, pointing to the fact that the dogs that mauled her had already been reported to the town.

Dominique Alain lost her triceps in a dog attack this spring. She said the government's changes to the law won't solve anything. (Denis Gervais/Radio-Canada)

Alain, who co-founded AQVAC, a group representing survivors of dog maulings in Quebec, said she was pleased with the mandatory reporting by doctors and vets — but is concerned that some professionals lack necessary expertise in animal behaviour.

"That is if the owner [even] takes their dog to the vet," she said. 

Under the current law, the owner of the dog that bites needs to take the animal to the veterinarian for an assessment.

"Would every dog owner … be responsible enough to do so?" she asked.

Instead, she would have liked to see more done to prevent the attacks in the first place, such as mandatory behavioural courses, liability insurance for dog owners, and DNA testing of the dog after a bite to assess the breed.

Vets pleased with new rules

Dr. Caroline Kilsdonk, the president of Quebec's order of veterinarians, said she hopes the new rules will be properly applied.

"All of the attacks of the last few years have taken place in either municipalities that the where the existing regulations were not properly applied, or there wasn't any regulations on dog security," she said.

Caroline Kilsdonk, president of the Quebec Order of Veterinarians, said she's glad veterinarians only have to report cases where they think public safety is at risk. (Maryse Massy/Radio-Canada)

Kilsdonk also praised the government for changing the rules on what veterinarians have to report. Before, vets had to report any injury caused by a dog, something she said "lacked precision" and wasn't efficient.

She said that when a dog feels cornered or afraid, it may "lightly" bite, leaving a scratch or a small wound.

"Depending on the situation the dog was in, all the context surrounding the event, [the bite] can be justified," she said.

Now, veterinarians only have to report cases that they believe are severe enough to pose a risk to public security.

But Kilsdonk said she wonders what the province will do with that information.

"We would like to know that the government will share the information, because dogs can move," she said.

"Can we reasonably think that [an irresponsible] dog owner will report to his new municipality that his dog was declared potentially dangerous? We would think … there's a risk that they won't."

With files from CBC Montreal's Daybreak


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