The family of a Montreal resident, Christiane Vadnais, who was mauled to death by a pit bull-type dog in her backyard in June 2016 was one of the first to testify at National Assembly hearings looking into province-wide legislation on dangerous dogs, which includes pit bull breeds.
The family said this was a very difficult day for them, but something they wanted to be a part of. They began their testimony with a moment of silence for Vadnais.
“It’s very emotional for me so I don’t always come out and talk to the public, but today was more significant to me so it was important to be here — not only for my mom, but for all the victims,” said Vadnais’ daughter, Emilie Routhier.
Bill 128, tabled by Public Security Minister Martin Coiteux, which proposes a framework for dangerous dogs names the following races as “having a reputation for being potentially dangerous”: rottweilers, pit bulls (American terriers, Stratfordshire American terriers, Stratfordshire bull terriers) as well as rottweiler and pit bull mixed breeds and dogs that have been trained for combat or attack.
Routhier explained that her late mother was a dog owner and so is she, but she wants to see the province ban pit bulls outright.
“We’re all dog lovers. I can’t imagine my life without dogs — that’s not what we’re trying to prove here. We love dogs, we love all breeds, but why have one breed if it’s going to be dangerous?” she said.
Since her sister’s death, Lise Vadnais said she has been doing her own research about the dangers of pit bull breeds. She said she didn’t want to just give an emotional testimony about her sister — she also wanted to be able to provide the committee with facts.
“I must speak about her because it’s what brought us here. But beyond that, we have a social conscience and that’s what we want to talk about,” she said.
Even so, she couldn’t help from tearing up before the hearings when underscoring the message that she wanted to drive home: “It shouldn’t be a political issue, but one of public safety,” she said.
However, once her testimony began, she was composed, asking the minister, “Are we really in the process of choosing between a human and a dog? I hope not.”
Montreal, which suspended its pit bull ban in December, is not appearing at the National Assembly hearings.
In an interview with Global News, Montreal Mayor Valerie Plante said she thought a ban was “not the right approach.”
“We’ve seen it in other cities, like London for example, who had a pit bull ban… and then changed it because it was costly, not effective and it kind of created a false sense of security,” she said.
Quebec Veterinarians testify
The Order of Quebec Veterinarians also testified on Tuesday. They told the commission they would like the bill to go further and proposed recommendations.
“It is essential to know dog breeders, and to control and identify them with a registry,” said Dr. Caroline Kilsdonk, president of the order. “The reproduction and sale of animals need to be better controlled.
Kilsdonk also recommended a province-wide education campaign for dog owners to inform them how to choose their dog and the best practices for training it. She said non-dog owners should also be taught how to properly react to dogs that might be aggressive.
Wednesday’s hearings begin with testimonies by both the Quebec SPCA Association and the Montreal SPCA.
The latter is also expected to propose recommendations. They would like to see people who’ve been convicted of animal cruelty be prohibited from owning a dog.