montreal and massachusetts, polar opposites on animal welfare: please take action

This post is a classic case of "Which do you want first, the bad news or the good news?" But unfortunately for dogs and the people who love them, this is no joke.

Last week, a dog named Wicca was put to death in Montreal. I was too upset to write about it or even face many of the details. The dog, a pitbull, was accused of biting someone, yet there was credible evidence the dog had not done so. An animal behaviourist confirmed that Wicca was not dangerous, but the judge would not consider that evidence.

The dog was taken from the owner, and killed. I include the link to the CBC News story with a trigger warning. I can't look at it.

But this is not even the worst news. The city of Montreal is now proposing a by-law that should horrify every dog owner, dog lover, and sane person. It would require automatic and mandatory euthanasia in any case where a dog bite breaks the skin - no matter what the context or severity. From the SPCA:
The SPCA is Deeply Concerned by the Proposed By-law Dealing with Dangerous Dogs in the City of Montreal

On July 26, 2012, Wicca, a dog deemed dangerous by the City of Montreal, was put to death at Le Berger Blanc pound, after the City refused to consider a report prepared by a certified veterinary behaviorist who had assessed Wicca. Wicca’s story, which caused indignation both locally and worldwide, highlights the inherent flaws in Montreal’s current animal control by-law.

However, the new proposed by-law to be put forward by the City raises even bigger concerns, as it would provide for automatic and mandatory euthanasia in cases where a dog causes a skin laceration, regardless of the context or the severity of the injury. If a dog were to superficially scratch another dog while playing at a dog park, or bite someone in self-defence, the City would be required to sentence that dog to death. The new by-law could thus potentially result in hundreds or even thousands of dogs being killed, many of whom pose no real threat to public safety. Though the proposal establishes a review process for dog owners who wish to contest a euthanasia order, owners would only have 24 hours to obtain a behavioral evaluation, which is insufficient given the wait list for canine behaviorists in Montreal.

The Montreal SPCA is asking citizens to contact the Mayor’s office to express their concern over the current by-law and proposed new by-law and to ask that these by-laws be amended to appropriately ensure for public safety without imposing undue consequences on the animals and citizens of Montreal.
Animal lovers, I urge you to contact the City of Montreal and voice your opposition to this unjust and wrongheaded law. You can download two model letters: here for residents of Montreal, and here for those who live elsewhere. (They download in Word.) Send your letter to maire@ville.montreal.qc.ca or:
Mr. Gérald Tremblay
Mayor of Montreal
Hôtel de ville
275, Notre-Dame East
Montreal, Quebec H2Y 1C6

You can also contact the mayor of Montreal through this link.

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Only a few hours drive from Montreal, in the state of Massachusetts, a shining example of responsibility, kindness, and justice for animals is unfolding. Yesterday Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick signed a bill that makes breed-specific legislation illegal in the state. BSL illegal! This is joyous news indeed.

In addition, the law calls for the creation of a statewide spay-neuter program, additional training for animal control staff, the prohibition of gas chambers as a method of animal euthanasia (another problem in the province of Quebec: petition here), the inclusion of pets in domestic violence protection orders, and other positive steps for animal welfare. The entire bill can be read here.

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Massachusetts offers us an example of what is possible when people use common sense and compassion to make laws. Montreal offers us the opposite: an animal law based on ignorance and expedience. Putting an animal to death with no regard to context and no meaningful opportunity for appeal should be a thing of the past. Please use the links above to contact the city of Montreal and tell them so.

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