For a long time, pets were considered goods under Québec law. But since 2016, they’ve obtained the status of living beings capable of feelings.
By Caroline Leblanc
There is a glimmer of hope for those who, like me, think that legislation and action should focus on prevention and intervention in cases of negligence or cruelty.
Sadly, the City of Monreal’s new rules concerning the management of animals prove that there is a way to go before we get there.
Because of several incidents involving so-called dangerous dogs, in 2016 the City of Montreal decided to enact measures banning Pitbull-type dogs.
To protect the population, the Denis Coderre municipal administration has put in place emergency rules to ban Pitbull-type dogs, instead of providing an educational program to prevent dog bites. It’s been proven that dog bites in Ontario did not decrease after that province banned Pitbulls. The politicians nonetheless decided to move towards exterminating certain breeds, with no worries for the consequences that separating the owner from their dog would provoke.
For the homeless with pets, these new by-laws simply make their days harder. Those who will lose their constant companions will be stressed. Their pets occupy a central place in their lives. The sense of well-being created by a pet is priceless. A homeless person’t pet is a source of comfort, allowing them to make some sense of their lives and reconnect with society.
Having lived on the streets myself and having been a street social worker, I’ve been able to witness the benefits of such a relationship.
The steps one would have to take to keep one’s pet would be so stressful and complex that few homeless persons would have the necessary resources to do it. To keep their pet, they would have to buy a special leash, a harness, and a muzzle. Then they’d have to spend $150 to register their animal. They’d have to attend a registration clinic, which are packed during regular business hours, with no place to park their pet.
Finally, they’d have to find the money to vaccinate, microchip and sterilize their dog. They’d also have to undertake a judicial search to prove they have no criminal record.
True, the City of Montreal does support some organizations that could provide a letter saying that they’re homeless. But getting the resources to do the rest of what will be required will be next to impossible. In the end, it will take about $700 and a lot of time and energy to complete this process. That’s a colossal amount for someone living on the street.
Would you be able to live up to your part of the bargain if you had no money and lived on the street?
For those who can’t, they are super stressed over the prospect of losing their pet. To keep this link going, some have decided to leave Montreal and relocate to a city or town without a Pitbull ban. This departure forces them to cut their ties with the social network and the organizations that support them. It’s a drastic cut that accentuates their social isolation. It weakens their position, as not every city or town has the resources for the homeless that Montreal boasts. Powerless, others continue to wander the streets knowing that their pet could be seized from them at any moment.
But the sad truth is that none of these pet owners can be certain of keeping their pets, because the Quebec government is also considering banning all Pitbulls and Rottweilers.
Dogs Across Quebec
The Quebec government would like to follow Montreal’s lead and ban Pitbulls. According to the Quebec Association of veterinarians (AMVQ), in 2010 there were 45,000 dog bites on children under 12, and 164,000 total on all Quebecers.
If bites causing death are rare, the AMVQ suggests that the choice of a breed for dog owners should be made according to the physical and psychological characteristics of the animal as well as the owner’s experience.
According to a recent study of 385 victims by the Canadian Hospitals Injury Reporting and Prevention Program (CHIRPP), the biting dog was known to the victim in 71.2% of all cases, and lived with the victim 25.7% of the time.
The City of Montreal wants to enact by-laws to control animals, with the aim of fostering harmonious cohabitation between citizens and pets, and to assure public safety. All dog and cat owners have to respect these by-laws by purchasing a valid licence for their pet.
Editor’s note, 2021: Denis Coderre’s anti-Pitbull by-laws were enacted in October of 2016. But when Mayor Valerie Plante came in, she kept a campaign promise and overturned the breed-specific bylaws in 2018. Today’s dangerous dog laws at both the Montreal and the provincial Québec level do not target a specific breed or breeds. But a dog deemed potentially dangerous can be euthanized. The CAQ government in its amendments to Bill 128 has left a lot of leeway for individual municipalities to pass the by-laws they want in this regard.
A dog deemed potentially dangerous must be sterilized, vaccinated for rabies, microchipped, and muzzled when in public.