Quebec pit bull ban is misguided, say Ottawa-Gatineau animal welfare advocates

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Dog owners protest Quebec's decision to eventually ban pit bulls

Dog owners protest Quebec's decision to eventually ban pit bulls

Animal welfare advocates in Ottawa and Gatineau are worried Quebec's proposed ban on pit bulls will negatively affect the breed's adoption rate and overall survival. 

Bill 128 was tabled last Thursday in Quebec's National Assembly, and is the beginning of what Quebec Public Security Minister Martin Coiteux calls a "gradual" approach to legislating dangerous dogs.

The law would allow the provincial government to eventually prohibit any kind of dog it considers dangerous, including pit bulls and other breeds trained to protect or attack.

"We think it's a shame," said Guillaume Rousseau, manager of the SPCA of Western Quebec in Gatineau.

"We don't want to ban a specific breed," he said. "I think it will have a negative impact on their adoption, and we don't think it's positive at all for rescue shelters like us."

Rousseau said he's also worried pit bulls will be killed in the future as a result of Quebec's ban.

"You're going to see a lot more euthanasia of specific breeds that are said to be dangerous," he said.

What's a pit bull?

Valérie Trudel, president of the Association of Veterinarians of Quebec, also believes Quebec's new ban is shortsighted. 

"In the long run it's not going to work," she said.

Trudel said the difficulty in legislating the ban lies in the fact that separating pit bulls from other dogs is challenging.

"It's really, really hard to identify a pit bull," she said. "Nobody can look at a dog and say 100 per cent it's a pit bull."

Under the Dog Owners' Liability Act in Ontario, a pit bull is defined as a "pit bull terrier, Staffordshire bull terrier, American Staffordshire terrier, American pit bull terrier or a dog that has an appearance and physical characteristics that are substantially similar to any of the aforementioned dogs."

Trudel said that when it comes to keeping people safe, the focus should not be on restricting certain types of dogs but rather educating owners about how to care for their pet and provide proper training.

"It's not about the breed. It's about the owner, it's about responsibilities, it's about making sure every single dog — no matter the breed — is safe to be around people."

'It's not working' 

Alix Packard, founder of Ottawa Citizens against Breed Specific Legislation, wants Ontario and Quebec to consider a responsible pet ownership bylaw, similar to the one that exists in Calgary, instead of singling out pit bulls.

"There has been nowhere in the world that this law has ever been put into place that's it's been successful," Packard said.

"A lot of advocates are fighting towards a responsible ownership law, which basically means that you need to be responsible for the behaviour of your pet."

Packard said Ontario's ban on pit bulls — which went into effect in 2005 — has been a failure. 

"It's not working," she said. "You're just causing heartache and grief and you're costing thousands and thousands of taxpayer dollars and it's completely ineffective."

Packard wants both provinces to scrap their breed-specific legislation and to adopt laws that mandate all dog owners to be accountable for their pets.

"If [Quebec] would actually do the research and look, they would realize the ban in Ontario hasn't done anything to reduce dog bites or attacks."