'It has to be stopped': Montrealers protest against 'dangerous dog' bill

'It has to be stopped': Montrealers protest against 'dangerous dog' bill
'It has to be stopped': Montrealers protest against 'dangerous dog' bill

On global anti-BSL day on Saturday, July 15, 2017, Montreal dog-lovers demonstrate against the province's Bill 128, which would force municipalities to ban dangerous dog breeds. John Mahoney / Montreal Gazette

For a third straight year, Montrealers took part in “global anti-breed-specific legislation day” demonstrations Saturday, gathering outside city hall and heading toward Cabot Square.

While similar protests took place in other cities, this year’s march in Montreal was also in protest of a more local issue: Bill 128, commonly called Quebec’s “potentially dangerous dog” bill.

The proposed bill, introduced by public security minister Martin Coiteux in April, aims to establish a framework regarding “potentially dangerous” dogs across Quebec. It would ban pit bulls and rottweilers and give cities the authority to euthanize any dog proved to be dangerous.

“The bill puts the lives of thousands of dogs at risk,” said Danielle Mainville, one of the organizers of Saturday’s protest. “It has to be stopped.”

Holding signs that said “respect existence or expect resistance” and chanting “my dog, my family,” protesters deplored the proposed bill as discriminatory and unscientific. Likewise, they criticized Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre for the city’s “pit bull-type” dog ban, in effect since last October.

The march also hosted a contingent of dog-owners from Châteauguay, celebrating the city’s recent announcement it plans on replacing its decades-old “dangerous dog” ban. 

In Bill 128, dogs deemed “potentially dangerous” include pit bulls (American pit bull terriers, American Staffordshire terriers and Staffordshire bull terriers) and rottweilers. The bill also targets any crossbreed of those dogs, and dogs that are “trained to protect, guard, fight or attack.”

The legislation has a grandfather clause that allows owners of “potentially dangerous” dogs to keep the animals.

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But critics say banning specific breeds sets off a chain of events that undoubtedly ends in dogs being euthanized.

“If a breed gets banned, no one can adopt them,” Mainville said on Saturday. “That leads to the shelters being full, and then what happens? Thousands of dogs get euthanized.”

The owner of a four-year-old pit bull named Lady, Mainville insists it’s not only owners of the targeted breeds that should be worried about the bill.

“People hear ‘breed-specific legislation’ and think ‘oh, that’s pit bulls’. But it’s not, it affects every breed. Someone can make a complaint about your dog and it can become considered a dangerous dog.

“That’s the danger of it — right now the uproar is about pit bulls, but then it will be rottweilers, then German shepherds, then huskies. Where does it end?”

Mainville feels the focus needs to be on the owners, not the breeds. On Saturday, many protesters held signs saying “there are no bad dogs, only bad owners.”

More education and information is needed, Mainville said. Children should be taught from a young age how to approach dogs and how to interact with them. Some owners also need education about what owning a dog entails. 

“An irresponsible owner, regardless of what breed they have, will still be irresponsible,” she said. “Breed-specific legislation doesn’t fix the root of the problem, it’s just the easiest way out.”

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