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Proposed dangerous dogs law overlooks Quebec First Nations, government hears

WATCH: During Quebec's dangerous dog hearings, the National Assembly committee heard arguments that pit bull-type dogs and Rottweilers are no more dangerous than other large dog breeds. Global's Raquel Fletcher reports.

The province is on the wrong track with a rottweiler and pit bull ban, two groups of witnesses told the National Assembly committee on Thursday, which is studying Bill 128, Quebec’s proposed dangerous dogs legislation, on the last day of public hearings.

READ MORE: Montreal SPCA against Quebec pit bull ban

The committee heard again that these dogs are no more dangerous than other large dog breeds. They also heard how the problem of dog bites is most prominent on First Nations reserves.

“In Canada, most of the fatal dog bites occur in First Nations communities,” said Ewa Demianowicz, a campaign manager with Humane Society International Canada.

She works in partnership with the non-profit organization, Chiots Nordiques, that provides free sterilization programs on Quebec reserves.

Demianowicz said neglected dogs can become aggressive and this is a problem on many reserves because a lack of sterilization programs on reserves has led to an overpopulation of dogs and free-roaming dogs.

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She opposes breed-specific legislation, especially targeted at pit bulls.

“Overall, in the province, the breed that is responsible for seven of the eight deaths in the past 30 years are in the family of the husky,” Demianowicz explained.

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The Montreal SPCA called the issue of free-roaming dogs and dog bites on First Nations reserves a “mega-problem” when they appeared at the National Assembly hearings on Wednesday.

“Indigenous people have been completely left out of this conversation,” said Alanna Devine. “A four-year-old Indigenous girl was killed on a reserve four years ago — it never made it to the media and we’re not talking about it today.”

Public Education Needed

A group of dog behaviourists also appeared before the committee, calling for more public education. Dogs rarely attack without reason, they said. When they do bite, they said it has nothing to do with their breed.

A dog behaviourist of 30 years, Patrice Robert, said if a dog is showing aggressive behaviour, something is wrong.

“They should be easy-going,” he said.

READ MORE: Family of woman mauled to death speaks at pit bull ban hearings

A PQ MNA disagreed with the expert witness. MNA for Verchères, Stéphane Bergeron, said his Maltese-poodle cross, called Toutoune becomes aggressive with other dogs, almost as if she’s jealous they’ll take her place in the family.

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“I believe we trained her well, we even took an obedience class,” the MNA explained. “With humans, she is adorable. With any other living being, she is unbearable.”

“That’s not normal,” Robert said.

“That’s not normal?” Bergeron asked again.

“No, that’s not normal,” Robert repeated.

Robert went on to say that these behavioural problems are common in Quebec and Canada because governments have lost control of breeders and allowed too many puppy mills to operate.

“I’m listening to what he’s saying,” Bergeron said after the hearing. “And maybe, the behaviour of my dog and the behaviour of a lot of dogs depends on the fact that they were not well-bred, or not well-trained.”

Robert said that not picking up on these signs of distress can lead to an animal becoming aggressive.

“Dogs talk with movement, it’s a body language all the time. When a dog moves, usually he’s saying something,” he said. “If the dog licks his nose, if he turns his head, if he turns his eyes… it’s all language. He says something. He says, ‘I’m not comfortable with the situation.'”