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October 3, 2017

Coroner’s report on tragic 2016 dog attack in Montreal deems breed bans ineffective and unhelpful

Humane Society International/Canada

  • Michelle Cintron/HSI

The Quebec coroner’s office released its report on the death of Christine Vadnais, who in 2016 was attacked by a dog misidentified by the media as a pit bull.

Following this tragic event, the City of Montreal and other municipalities moved to ban pit bull-type dogs while the Province of Quebec introduced Bill 128, which also aims to prohibit certain breeds of dogs in the entire province. The coroner, Dr. Ethan Lichtblau, concludes in his report that:

  • The dog who attacked Ms. Vadnais cannot be formally identified as a pit bull type even with DNA test results;
  • A lack of socialization and stimulation, as well as basic care, are factors that probably led to his dangerous behavior; and
  • Breed-specific legislation is not an effective measure to protect the public.

Ewa Demianowicz, campaign manager for Humane Society International/Canada, issued the following statement:

“From the very beginning, we warned the City of Montreal that banning certain breeds of dogs is not an effective measure to prevent bites. Yet our elected officials chose to ignore sound science and expert advice by adopting a senseless ban on pit bulls and pit bull type dogs. The coroner’s report is the latest in a long list of expert testimony and studies that conclude that responsible animal management should avoid breed-specific language and focus instead on community education, enforcement and appropriate pet care. 

"It is heartbreaking to read in the report that this tragic event may even have been prevented had the municipality followed up on previous dog bite incidents implicating the same dog. The inaction of the authorities and the lack of enforcement of by-laws that were already in place have contributed to this tragic event, but sadly our governments continue to use pit bulls as scapegoats.

"As cited in the report, the City of Calgary – which adopted an approach based on responsible pet ownership – has been able to reduce the rate of incidents with dogs by 78 percent without any breed ban. This approach has been proven to work and should serve as a model for governments across the country.

"We hope that the coroner’s findings will help us move forward towards humane, efficient and enforceable legislation that will truly protect the public, and we call on the City of Montreal to revoke its breed specific legislation.”

Help stop breed-specific legislation in Quebec.

Facts:

  • The coroner has made several recommendations following his findings, mainly to create a centralized database of incident reports implicating dogs, mandatory municipal dog licensing, measures to increase canine sterilization, fair and objective means of defining a “dangerous” dog, and an emphasis on public awareness and education.
  • There is no evidence that breed-specific laws reduce dog bites or attacks on people and no jurisdiction has been able to prove that this kind of legislation has improved public safety. After more than 10 years of a breed ban in Ontario, rates of dog bites are higher than ever. These laws are costly, cannot be effectively enforced, and unnecessarily harm families, dogs and communities.
  • The best way to prevent dog bites is through proactive outreach across all sectors in the community. The Canadian Veterinary Medical Association and the Ordre des médecins vétérinaires du Québec have clear position statements that do not support breed specific legislation.
  • Experts have consistently found that no one breed is more likely to bite than another. Factors that are scientifically linked to aggression in dogs include neglect, abuse and leaving animals unsterilized; effective public safety legislation focuses on these areas instead of ineffective and harmful breed bans.
  • In the past 30 years, six individuals have been killed by dogs in Quebec. Of the eight dogs involved in these deaths, seven were husky type dogs and the breed of the dog involved in the death of a Montreal woman in 2016 has not been conclusively determined. Notably, breed specific legislation rarely targets breeds other than pit bull type dogs.
  • In April 2017, the Quebec government introduced Bill 128 that would give the government new powers to impose restrictions on certain dogs and their owners, including bans on specific breeds. The proposed legislation specifically targets pit bull type dogs and Rottweilers, as well as crosses of those breeds. The bill has not been yet adopted.

Media Contact: Christopher Paré, 514 395-2914 x 206, cpare@hsi.org

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