Quebec government backs down on its pit bull ban
Public Security Minister Martin Coiteux wants to take an approach based on consensus
After promising for more than a year that a tough, provincewide ban on pit bulls and other pit bull-type dogs was on the way, Quebec is backing down on breed-specific legislation.
Public Security Minister Martin Coiteux says he no longer wants to ban specific types of dogs, denying that the move amounts to backpedalling.
"It's a step forward. Backtracking would be to not adopt the bill. It would be to leave things as they are," he said.
In the National Assembly Tuesday, Coiteux said he wants to take a consensus-based approach to passing Bill 128, which he still hopes to get done despite a tight timeline.
The National Assembly breaks for the summer June 15.
The move marks the end of a two-year period during which the government's enthusiasm for breed-specific legislation went from fervent to lukewarm.
Making the law enforceable
Bill 128 originally would have prohibited Quebecers from owning three breeds associated with pit bulls — American pit bull terriers, American Staffordshire terriers and Staffordshire bull terriers — as well as Rottweilers and any cross of those breeds.
Under the original proposal, those who already owned these dogs would be allowed to keep them. New owners would be fined up to $5,000, and their dogs could be euthanized, sold or given to an animal shelter.
Lise Vadnais, the sister of a Montreal woman who died after being mauled by her neighbour's dog in 2016, said the family was "extremely disappointed" by the government's decision not to target specific breeds of dogs.
"We're trying to console ourselves by the fact that at least there will be a law," Vadnais told Radio-Canada.
"But we would have really, really liked to target dangerous dogs and pit bulls in particular [in the legislation], so that eventually, there wouldn't be any pit bulls in Quebec," she said.
Coiteux said Tuesday the government was in touch with the Vadnais family earlier this week, and while they may be disappointed, the revised legislation is "much better than doing nothing."
"And it's not nothing; it's making sure that we're going to have strict rules to protect people in every single city of the province."
Coiteux said the main objective is still to keep citizens safe, but the law has to be enforceable as well, a point he says was brought up numerous times during consultations.
He specifically mentioned Ontario, which has a province-wide pit bull ban that Quebec pledged to emulate. Municipalities in that province, such as Ottawa, have had trouble implementing the legislation, he said.
Coiteux pointed out there is no scientific consensus on whether breed-specific bans work.
He said there will be amendments to the bill that will better define how dogs will be dealt with based on the gravity of their behaviour.
He also said he planned to work with the Ministry of Agriculture, which oversees animal welfare, to enforce stricter rules for dog breeders to make sure they're not putting dogs on the market that might be dangerous.
Ban is necessary, Coiteux said in past
When the bill was tabled in April 2017, Coiteux said that dog attacks across Quebec convinced the government a ban was necessary.
He pointed to the case of Christiane Vadnais, a Montreal woman who was fatally mauled by a dog in her backyard in 2016. Her death was cited as the driving force behind a pit bull ban in Montreal.
That ban, championed by former mayor Denis Coderre, became a major issue during the November municipal election and was seen as part of Coderre's eventual downfall.
It was eventually suspended by Valérie Plante's administration.
The tone on the provincewide ban shifted considerably in the months following Coderre's election defeat and the suspension of the breed-specific portions of Montreal's bylaw.
In recent weeks, Coiteux has said he was keeping an open mind when it came to the possibility of removing the breed-specific sections of the provincial bill.
With files from Radio-Canada