Three years almost to the day after it came into effect, Bill 128, which regulates dogs deemed dangerous in Quebec, continues to divide opinion.
While those who have a big heart for animals deplore it, the victims of dog attacks would have liked it to be more severe.
Created in 2019, the Quebec association for dog attack victims (AQVAC) initially called for Bill 128 to have more teeth. It advocated zero tolerance to avoid any risk of recurrence in a dog attacking a human, as well as the creation of a provincial registry of attacks.
The founding members of the AQVAC, Dominique Alain and Geneviève Piacentini, who were violently attacked by dogs in Potton and Saint-Césaire in 2019, as well as Lise Vadnais, whose sister Christiane was killed by a dog three years earlier, felt that the law prioritized “the rights of dog owners” to the detriment of citizens’ safety.
Today, these victims believe that the law still does not meet its objective of ensuring better public safety in relation to potentially dangerous dogs. In particular, they question the way the dogs are assessed.
“Many municipalities have delegated the evaluation of dogs to animal protection societies,” said Anne Castaigne, daughter of Piacentini. “It seems to go against their mission. Above all, we would have liked to have had more precision on what the behavioral evaluation consists of. There have been discussions with the veterinarians’ association, but they don’t seem to have all the necessary training in animal behavior. There is work to be done.”
“All it does is put the burden of a very meaningful decision in the hands of the municipalities, where often we all know each other, including the owner of the dangerous dog,” says Alain. “Moreover, it can be costly for a municipality to defend its decision, taken to ensure the protection of a citizen, if the dog’s keeper decides to go to court to challenge it.”
MAKING OWNERS ACCOUNTABLE
The AQVAC is still pleading for greater civic responsibility on the part of owners of aggressive dogs, particularly so that they compensate their victims.
“For a long time now, we have been asking that owners of dangerous dogs be required to take out civil liability insurance to cover the risks,” explained Alain, who, along with her husband, is claiming $675,000 in damages from those they hold responsible for their misfortunes resulting from the attack.
The founders of the QVAC would also like to see more recognition of the criminal responsibility of dog owners, which would result in harsher sentences.
In January, Mario Fortier, whose two unleashed dogs violently attacked Piacentini, was sentenced to 90 days in jail at home to be served on weekends after pleading guilty. A sentence with one year’s probation and about 100 hours of community service, which Lise Vadnais described as “a bit scandalous.”
“It’s really minimal. He found a way to get away with it,” she said.
The owner of the dog that killed her sister more than six years ago had not been criminally charged.
“We, the victims, will live with trauma for the rest of our lives. It is terrible. It’s like coming back from war, being attacked alive by dogs. On top of the physical after-effects that we will have to live with, all because of an owner who was negligent.And he will spend 30 days in prison at home?In his case, the guardian of his attackers was sentenced to six months in prison, 240 hours of community service and a ban on owning dogs for the rest of his life.
“Victims of attacks compare a dangerous dog to a loaded gun that you don’t know when you’ll pull the trigger. The sentences are not nearly as severe, though,” said Castaigne.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published in French on Feb. 26, 2023.