“The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.” ~Mahatma Gandhi

I’m a big fan of reasonableness. Montreal’s proposed new by-law concerning what the city deems to be “dangerous dogs” is anything but reasonable.

Quebec already has incredibly lax animal protection laws, and is known as the “puppy mill capital of North America”, but these days, Montreal dog owners and animal lovers have even more reason to be horrified: a proposed by-law could mean that your dog is seized and killed for merely scratching another animal. Yes, you read that right.

After the beautiful dog Wicca was put to death on July 26, 2012 for allegedly biting 2 people, animal activists in Montreal swore that Wicca’s death would not be in vain—that by-laws would be changed. However, this proposed new by-law is even worse than the existing one in place, and, to date, animal welfare experts have not been consulted in its drafting. In Wicca’s case, the gravity of the alleged injuries and the context of the incidences were not taken into consideration when the city of Montreal issued the mandatory death order, and neither was a report prepared by a certified veterinary behaviourist.

The new by-law, if passed, would similarly not take such factors into consideration. It provides for an automatic and mandatory death sentence in cases where a dog causes a skin laceration, regardless of the context or the severity of the injury. In other words, even if a dog were to superficially scratch another dog while playing at a dog park, the city of Montreal would automatically sentence the dog to death. Simply outrageous! Dog owners who wish to contest a death order would be granted 24 hours to consult a certified veterinary behaviourist and present a report. This is next to impossible with only 3 such experts in Quebec. Can you imagine the waiting list to consult one of these people?  What about the time necessary to evaluate and prepare a report? How is 24 hours even close to a reasonable timeframe for such a task?

This proposed by-law is potentially applicable to any breed of dog, from a Chihuahua to a Doberman Pinscher, which is deemed “dangerous” by a city official based on the dog’s behavior, therefore, it is a law which punishes a deed. This type of law is not to be confused with breed specific legislation (BSL), which is legislation banning a specific breed of dog, therefore, it is a law which punishes a breed.

The logic behind BSL is based on the false premise that particular breeds of dogs are more dangerous than others.  Six of the 19 boroughs of Montreal and the 15 reconstituted cities on the island of Montreal have BSL in place. BSL forbids the ownership of a Pit Bull and as such, the city of Montreal could confiscate and kill your dog just because he happens to be of a particular breed, or sometimes even just happens to look like a certain breed, regardless of any conduct.

Killing dogs solely based on breed takes place in Montreal and all over the world. Let’s take the recent case of Lennox in Ireland as an example. Lennox was not a Pit Bull. He was an American Bulldog and Labrador Retriever mix. Because he apparently resembled a Pit Bull, and with BSL in place, Lennox was seized in 2010 and after a lengthy legal battle initiated by his devastated family, and was killed two years later by the Belfast City Council Dog Wardens Department. Lennox never bit or attacked anyone and had no behavioural issues whatsoever.

Montreal’s Wicca was an American Staffordshire Terrier (one type of Pit Bull) who was seized and killed by Montreal city officials after an incident where she allegedly bit two people. There was no BSL in place in Wicca’s neighbourhood. However, the by-law presently in place, and the new proposed by-law, both give power to a city official to order the killing of any dog deemed a danger to the public, without regard to an expert opinion, or taking into consideration the circumstances and severity of the injury. How’s this for reasonableness?

In both the Lennox and Wicca cases, several other options existed, including invitations from Cesar Milan himself to take the dogs and rehabilitate them if necessary at his dog psychology center in the United States. Also, what about a muzzle order or mandatory dog obedience classes?

One can’t help but wonder why city officials are so adamant on killing. Hmmm…megalomaniacs maybe?!

Montreal’s SPCA is asking us to contact the mayor’s office to express our concern and discontent.

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*Second photo from Shazz Mack via Flickr (under a Creative Commons license.*