Pit bull ban in Quebec one of many possibilities, says public security minister

The Quebec government is creating a working group to review regulations surrounding pit bulls and isn't ruling out province-wide legislation regarding the dogs.

Working group to study current regulations, which vary by municipality

City councillor Anie Samson cautioned a ban on pit bulls may not as effective as people may hope — Ontario banned the breed more than a decade ago, but statistics show dog bites in Toronto have increased. (Natalie Nanowski/CBC)

The Quebec government is creating a working group to review regulations surrounding pit bulls and isn't ruling out a province-wide ban on the dogs.

The move comes a day after 55-year-old Christiane Vadnais died after being mauled in her backyard in Montreal's Pointe-aux-Trembles by what police describe as a pit bull.

She was pronounced dead at the scene. An autopsy will be performed.

Right now, the legal responsibilities surrounding dogs lie with each of Quebec's individual cities, but in an interview, Public Security Minister Martin Coiteux acknowledged that may not be the best way to proceed.

"We may consider a province-wide legislation to regulate whether we can have pit bulls in our cities," he said.

Group to look at all possibilities

Participants in the working group will include the province's Public Security and Agriculture ministries and organizations representing the province's municipalities.

Coiteux said the group will look at whether existing legislation is adequate or needs to be changed, as well as the effectiveness of bans in other provinces and jurisdictions.

Quebec Public Security Minister Martin Coiteux said all possibilities, including a pit bull ban, will be reviewed by the working group. (CBC)

"If the next step has to be legislative, it's going to be legislative. If the right way to do it is to strengthen the current regulations or coordinate the regulations of different cities, we'll [look at] that. But I'm considering, very seriously, the possibility of having province-wide legislation," he said.

Coiteux said the group will begin its work "as soon as possible, within the next days and weeks."

Regulating vs. legislating pit bulls

Montreal announced last month its own plans to create rules about "dangerous dogs" by 2018.

The rules will replace the patchwork system whereby some boroughs have strict rules and others have none at all.

"We have to make sure that everyone has the same policy, and we apply it […] and after that, if we feel we have to go further then we will go further," said Mayor Denis Coderre.

While the city didn't rule out the possibility of a breed-specific ban, Councillor Anie Samson, vice-chair of the city's executive committee and the person responsible for the animal file, has said she wanted to focus more on educating pet owners and targeting those who don't abide by the new rules.

Coderre echoed her position Thursday.

"I don't think that you need to legislate necessarily. I think you need to make sure through common sense that you have the tools to work with so you [create a] safe environment for the people," he said.

Which dogs are doing the biting?

Dr. Jonathan Kanevsky is a plastic surgery resident at the Montreal Children's Hospital and says he treats anywhere between 15 to 20 children for dog bites in a summer.

He said most of the bites he sees in kids are inflicted by smaller animals, and he has a theory as to why.

"When kids get playful and rough with them, it's with the smaller animals, and I'm not sure why, but for some reason, when people have smaller animals they tend to tolerate them being more energetic and biting more," he said.

Does breed-specific legislation work?

The Montreal SPCA says it's all for keeping people safe from dangerous dogs, but it doesn't believe breed-specific legislation is the way to do that.

Spokeswoman Anita Kapuscinska says pit-bull bans give the public a false sense of security because it's the dog's personality and upbringing, not its appearance, that determines the way it acts.

"We should be promoting effective legislation that keeps dangerous dogs off of our streets, as opposed to a dog that looks a certain way," she said.

The SPCA says a ban of pit bulls may lead to dogs that aren't dangerous being unjustly targeted. (Alex Brockman/CBC)

Theresa Rickerby has worked with dogs for more than 20 years. She lives in Ontario, a province that has had a pit bull ban since 2005.

She said people who want to own dogs should first research which breed fits their lifestyle then should have to ensure it receives the proper health care, training and socialization.

She also believes breed-specific legislation doesn't work.

"It's difficult to enforce, it takes the onus off of responsible dog ownership and the accountability of people who have dogs, and it's really just a distraction, a fear-based reaction focusing on one specific breed or mixes."

With files from Natalie Nanowski