City-sanctioned program teaches kids how to avoid dog attacks
Published Monday, July 16, 2018 1:39PM EDT
Last Updated Monday, July 16, 2018 8:06PM EDT
The city of Montreal is getting involved in teaching some of its most vulnerable citizens how to stay safe around dangerous dogs.
The new initiative comes in the wake of some brutal attacks by dangerous dogs, and is thanks to a partnership between the city and Zootherapy Quebec.
About 20 children gathered in the Sud-Ouest borough Monday morning to hear tips about canine temperament and how to avoid being bitten - with the assistance of Albert, a Dutch sheepdog.
At the beginning of the session, an instructor asked if any of the children had been nipped by a dog before – and about ¼ of the group said they had.
This, according to the city, proves the need to educate children on proper safety measures when encountering a dog they’ve never met, or just how to generally behave.
The courses started with teaching the children how to read a dog’s body language.
“They need to respect his personal space. The dog will show signs, like hiding his tail, putting his ears back,” explained Regine Hetu, clinical coordinator of Zootherapy Quebec. “[We want to] help children recognize the body language of dogs.”
Then, she instructed, if the child wants to pet the dog, they should first ask the owner and if the answer is yes, put their hand out so the dog can smell it before touching the animal.
Kids are also taught to stay still if they come across a potentially dangerous dog.
If ever the dog attacks, children are taught to drop to the ground and protect their necks.
“We say that all dogs can bite. All dogs, they have teeth, so what we teach is how to protect ourselves in case we are in front of a dog that can look dangerous or suspicious of biting,” said Hetu.
Approximately 3000 kids are expected to take part in the program over the course of the summer – the highest number of participants since it was introduced 25 years ago.
This kind of safety has been a hot topic in Montreal, ever since the fatal mauling of a woman – Christiane Vadnais – by an aggressive dog in her backyard.
At the time, Mayor Denis Coderre introduced controversial breed-specific legislation targeting pit bull-type dogs. It was later repealed.
City councillors are expected to vote on a revised draft of the animal control bylaw at the end of August.
This class is just one of the many initiatives the city has planned to increase child safety when dealing with potentially dangerous dogs.
“We will make many efforts to make sure citizens get the information on how to behave with dogs, especially owners – they have responsibility. They should keep the dog on leash. We will reinforce and apply our bylaw,” said Philippe Sabourin of the City of Montreal.
Right now, violating the animal control bylaw can cost dog owners up to $700.
Sabourin said not everyone obeys the rules.
“We know it's not everyone who is going to follow, so we also have to address the information to the kids in order to help them to protect themselves, if they ever met an aggressive dog,” he said.