POINTE-AUX-TREMBLES – The debate on whether to ban specific dog breeds has been reignited after Christiane Vadnais was mauled by a pit bull-type dog in her backyard in Pointe-aux-Trembles.
Farid Benzenati, who lives next door to the victim, said he witnessed the attack when he came outside to check on his pool.
“I thought the dog was playing with an object, when I got close, I realized it was a woman’s body,” he told Global News.
“I yelled my neighbour’s name. She didn’t respond so I called the police.”
When paramedics arrived, the dog was aggressive and still gnawing on her body.
They had to put him down.
The 55 year-old victim was declared dead on the scene.
Police believe the pit bull-type dog, that belonged to the victim’s neighbour, got through a hole in a fence and attacked her in her backyard.
Constable Benoît Boisselle with Montreal police said the victim had injuries all over her body.
“I can’t go into specific details but I can tell you she was very injured,” he said.
The investigators met with the dog owner on Wednesday night and confirmed he is cooperating.
The dog appeared to be new to the neighbourhood.
“It’s only been a few days we’ve heard the dog bark, but we don’t know him,” said Benzenati.
“It’s terrible, terrifying, it’s horror. She was a nice, smiley lady. Losing a neighbour like her is like losing family.”
The woman’s death has some people on edge and has reignited the debate on whether pit bull-type dogs should be banned.
“A pit bull is known to be dangerous, it shouldn’t be allowed to be free,” said Yvonne Brière.
WATCH: Pit bull attack victim speaks out about debate on pit bull ban
The City of Châteauguay already has a bylaw banning pit bull-type dogs.
Last year, thousands of people signed a petition opposing the ban; it is is still in place, but the Montreal SPCA argued applying such measures is not effective – and gives people a false sense of security.
“We should be dealing with more efficient legislation that would prevent dog bites and dog attacks from occurring in the first place, whether it’s a Labrador or even a pit bull-type dog,” said Anita Kapuscinska, a spokesperson with the Montreal SPCA.
Graham Smith, a dog behaviour specialist who has trained over 3,500 dogs – including pit bull-types – said the conversation needs to be turned around.
“It has nothing to do with the breed. It has to do with the owner, the training of those owners and the training of those dogs,” he said, while he pointed out how docile pit bull-type dogs can be with proper training.
“If you look over history, there are cycles over what is the ‘breed ban du jour’ and unfortunately, lately it’s been pit bulls.”
He also pointed out he is in favour of legislation to regulate the ownership of animals.
“It’s the same thing as cars, cars can inflict a lot of damage. We don’t give a 16-year-old a car and tell them to go on the Internet and read about how to drive and be a responsible driver,” said Smith.
“We insist they have proper training. It’s the same with all dogs.”
Montreal’s Executive Committee member Anie Samson commented on the pit bull mauling late on Thursday.
Last month, the city said it wants to come up with regulations for dangerous dogs for all boroughs by 2018.
Samson said Wednesday’s incident has given the legislation a new sense of urgency, but ultimately puts the onus on the owners.
“What happened…made us realize we have to maybe work faster,” said Samson.
“We have to work harder on the regulation because for now, we are 19 different boroughs, 19 different regulations and we want to take all the regulations to be one standard for all of Montreal.”
An autopsy is being performed on the woman to determine the cause of her death.
It could take about 10 days for results to confirm whether the dog killed the woman or if she died of natural causes.
The dog’s owner could face charges of criminal negligence.
Editor’s note: A previous version of this story said the Chateauguay bylaw was brought in last year. It has been corrected to show that opposition to the by-law started again last year.