What are the options when it comes to regulating dogs?

In light of Quebec's decision to review regulations surrounding dogs, here are a few of the ways different municipalities deal with dogs and dog owners.

Some municipalities ban breeds, others regulate dangerous dogs

Some question whether a ban on pit bulls is the most effective way of regulating dangerous dogs. (Natalie Nanowski/CBC)

Quebec has a patchwork system of regulations for dogs. But it has promised to review those regulations following the recent mauling of a woman in Montreal's east end. 

Here are a few of the ways different municipalities deal with dogs and dog owners.

No pit bulls in our streets

Many cities around the world ban pit bulls. Such regulations, however, have been the target of much criticism and many cities are now reversing their policies. 

The Quebec College of Veterinarians, like the Montreal SPCA, argues banning breeds creates "a false sense of security" and does not necessarily reduce the number of bites. It gives the example of Ontario, which has banned four breeds of dogs considered to be pit bulls since 2005, only to see the number of dog bites increase.

"Banning a breed means in the long term there will be other mixing of races, creating another dangerous animal that people will love," said Valérie Trudel, president of the Association of Veterinarians of Quebec.

"Banning a breed skirts the problem." 

Where: Saint-Leonard, Outremont, Anjou, Drummondville, Saguenay, Rimouski, Winnipeg (first Canadian city to ban pit bulls in 1990) and Ontario.

Banning dangerous dogs

Banning pit bulls will only lead to more cross breeding, say some animal experts. (istock)

Other municipalities prohibit dangerous dogs regardless of breed.

In the Montreal borough of Rivière-des-Prairies-Pointe-aux-Trembles, for instance, a dog that bites, tries to bite, attacks or tries to attack a person or another animal can be declared dangerous by an expert from the borough.

The expert may order the dog be euthanized or impose conditions such as sterilization, having them microchipped, or even having them undergo behavioural therapy. 

Gatineau specifies that pit bull terriers, Staffordshire bull terriers and American Staffordshire terriers are subject to special municipal regulations. They include requiring owners to pass a training course and posting a notice about their dog on their property.

Where: Gatineau, Sherbrooke, the Montreal boroughs of Rivière-des-Prairies-Pointe-aux-Trembles and Mercier-Hochelaga-Maisonneuve.

Licence to walk

Under a bill passed in May, Berlin will require all those who want to walk their dogs leash-free to first obtain a certificate. Like a driver's licence, there would be practical and theoretical tests involved, including an obedience test. Owners must be able to demonstrate they can control their dog and that the animal is not dangerous.

Where: Berlin, but also in Lower Saxony, in northern Germany, since 2013 and in Switzerland since 2008.

Mandatory sterilization

Many municipalities encourage dog owners to sterilize their animals. In Quebec, according to the Quebec College of Veterinarians, 75 to 80 per cent of dogs are sterilized.

"Sterilization greatly reduces running away and aggression," said Michel Pepin, spokesman for the college.

"Males that aren't castrated are much more aggressive and tend to want to fight. Their hunting drives are greater …  [and] the dog is harder to control, harder to train."

He pointed out that some municipalities have tried to force owners to sterilize their dogs, "but it's not easy to control." He does not believe that compulsory sterilization is the ideal solution. He proposes instead to reward "good citizens," such as those who sterilize their dogs, by giving them a discount on the licence for the animal.

Where: In some European countries, including Belgium (compulsory sterilization of all dogs since Jan. 1).

Cracking down on off-leash dogs

Pepin said more needs to be done to enforce rules about leashes in public places. "The fines aren't very high, and there is nobody on the ground to implement it," he said.

"The city will have some patrollers this summer, but for the whole city. You can walk a long time before someone notices that your dog is loose."

Pepin said he believes there should be regulations that punish citizens who fail to keep their dogs in a closed yard. If the dog escapes the yard, the owners should be held responsible, he said.

Where: Many municipalities require residents to keep their dog on a leash at all times in public places.

Certain jurisdictions have opted for halters as a more humane alternative to muzzles. (cynoclub/iStock)

Mandatory halters

The Quebec College of Veterinarians, the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine at the Université de Montréal and the Montreal SPCA are all in favour of wearing halters to prevent bites. A halter is a head harness that allows the owner to better control a dog's head, but the dog can still open its mouth.

Where: Sainte-Julie has just adopted a regulation requiring the wearing of halters in public places for dogs weighing 20 kilograms and more, starting in September.

Rewarding 'good citizens'

According to Pepin, municipalities should reward those who register, microchip and sterilize their animals.

An ideal regulation, he said, would include:

  • Sterilization and identification
  • Requiring leashes in public
  • Taking obedience classes with the dog and classes to understand dog behaviour

Where: Quebec City, Drummondville, Verdun and Saint-Hyacinthe.


  • A previous version of this story said halters prevent dogs from biting.
    Jun 21, 2016 12:14 PM ET

With files from Radio-Canada's Danielle Beaudoin