Breed of dog in deadly Montreal attack takes a bite out of the case for a pit bull ban
Jeff Lagerquist, CTVNews.ca Staff
Published Sunday, July 31, 2016 4:52PM EDT
Last Updated Wednesday, November 30, 2016 3:10PM EST
The dog that mauled a Montreal woman to death in June was registered as a boxer – not a pit bull – according to documents obtained by Humane Society International Canada under an Access to Information request.
Critics of blanket bans on certain breeds say the revelation raises major questions about the effectiveness of legislation meant to curb ownership of dangerous dogs.
Police found 55-year-old Christiane Vadnais lying dead on the ground when they arrived at the scene of her June 8 attack. She had been killed by her neighbour’s dog, Lucifer. Both police and the dog’s owner initially classified Lucifer as a “pit bull-type” dog after the incident.
Vadnais’ death renewed debate in the province about whether pit bulls are so dangerous that they ought to be banned altogether.
Alanna Devine, SPCA Montreal’s director of animal advocacy, says people are asking the wrong questions when it comes to identifying dangerous dogs, noting that neglect and abusive training methods are much more likely to cause a dog to bite or attack than its breed.
“The information that I think is pertinent here is that the dog was unsterilized, the dog was named Lucifer, and the dog had previously been involved in an attack against a human,” she told CTV Montreal.
Devine says it’s virtually impossible to look at a dog and accurately determine its breed, even for experts.
Martin Coiteux, Quebec’s public safety minister, said in June that provincial regulations on the issue of dangerous dogs could be introduced in the fall session of the National Assembly. Montreal is expected to announce its new dangerous dog regulations in September.
But veterinarian Enid Stiles calls the ongoing preoccupation with breed-related aggression unscientific, since canine genetics are often deeply nuanced.
“It’s a testament to the fact that we should be moving away from this breed specific legislation because, in fact, pit bulls aren’t even a breed, they are a type,” she says. “A lab mixed with a boxer can look an awful lot like what they think is a pit bull.”
Several Quebec municipalities already have legislation in place regarding pit bulls. Some ban the breed outright, while others involve conditions like sterilization, microchips, and muzzles in public.
Still, unscrupulous pit bull owners can easily skirt the law in communities where they are banned.
Sainte-Adele Mayor Robert Milot previously told CTV Montreal that the owner of a pit bull that attacked a local woman in June lied about its breed on registration forms. Sainte-Adele has banned pitbull ownership since 2012. He is in favour of a province-wide ban because the municipal bylaw is difficult to enforce.
"If people lie to us, what can we tell you? We have no way of identifying the race of the dog to that point. It needs to be a vet to be qualified to do that," said Milot.