Quebec Public Security Minister Martin Coiteux says pit bulls will eventually be banned across the province.
After months of delays, province's long-awaited legislation on dangerous dogs was tabled in the National Assembly on Thursday morning.
The proposed law, Bill 128, is the beginning of what Coiteux called a "gradual" approach to legislating dangerous dogs.
"The attacks across Quebec, the death of [Christiane] Vadnais convinced us that we had to proceed with banning pit bull-type dogs," he said.
Vadnais died last summer after she was fatally mauled in her Montreal backyard by a dog that had been described as a pit bull.
Her death touched off a debate surrounding pit bulls and how best to legislate them. The government wanted to create a provincewide baseline, Coiteux said, but municipalities that choose to do so are free to make their own rules.
The proposed law creates three categories of dogs:
- Those declared potentially dangerous.
- Those reputed to be potentially dangerous.
- Those that are dangerous.
Pit bulls are on the list of dogs reputed to be potentially dangerous, and Coiteux said once the bill is passed into law, the government would move to ban them. The timeline for that move, however, is unclear.
There will be a grandfather clause that will allow dog owners who have not committed serious crimes to keep their dogs.
"We think that those minimal measures will ensure that throughout the territory of Quebec, people will be safer, they will feel safer," Coiteux said.
Which dogs are dangerous?
The list of dog breeds the government says are reputed to be potentially dangerous are:
- Pit bulls, including American pit bull terriers, American Staffordshire terriers and Staffordshire bull terriers.
- A crossbreed of the two categories of above-mentioned breeds.
- Dogs that are a cross between and dog and a canid that isn't a dog (such as a wolf or fox).
- Dogs trained to protect, guard, fight or attack.
The government can prohibit any kind of dog on the list, Coiteux said.
Those dogs will also be subject to stricter rules, which will be announced sometime before the law is passed, Coiteux said.
Mandatory leashes, sterilization and specific fence heights are among the rules the government is considering.
The law would also give municipalities the power to have dogs believed to be a danger to public safety deemed potentially dangerous as well.
Dogs that bite, attack and injure humans or other animals can also be deemed potentially dangerous. Dogs that inflict serious injuries on humans must be euthanized.
Bill follows fatal dog attack
A week after Vadnais's death, Premier Philippe Couillard said Quebec would likely follow Ontario's lead and pass a law that bans pit bulls, but also targets dangerous dogs.
The Liberals were expected to present the legislation by last fall.
A working group convened by Coiteux to study different legislative options surrounding dangerous dogs recommended the province opt for restrictions on the ownership of dangerous dogs, not a breed-specific ban.
Coiteux cited the group's work Thursday, saying it guided the decision to eventually ban pit bulls.
On Monday, a 60-year-old woman from Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, southeast of Montreal, suffered serious bites to her arms, face and head Monday when she was attacked by two dogs that lived with her.
Police described one of the dogs as a pit bull-type dog.
Not interested in waiting for the province's legislation, Montreal was among a number of municipalities that passed its own animal control bylaw last fall. The provisions related to registering pit bulls went into effect March 31.
Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre commended Coiteux, saying that he called the minister to congratulate him.
"Those who have a dog, they have to be responsible," said Coderre. "This is not a right, it's a privilege."