Coroner recommends centralized registry for dog bites in wake of deadly attack
Published Monday, October 2, 2017 8:18PM EDT
A coroner is calling on the provincial government to create a centralized registry for dog bites in the wake of a deadly attack on a woman in Montreal.
The coroner examined the death of Christiane Vadnais, 55, who was mauled to death in her backyard by her neighbour's dog in June 2016.
When police arrived it was evident that Vadnais had been killed by the dog, which continued to be aggressive towards police officers who ultimately shot and killed the animal.
The report explains how officers determined that the dog had been inside a house next door but had managed to get outside, and had escaped its owner's yard by pushing past a piece of metal that had been blocking a hole in a fence.
It also shows that Vadnais was likely adjacent to her back patio when the dog attacked.
"A normal dog would not have done what my sister suffered," said Lise Vadnais.
Vadnais's death led the city of Montreal to create anti-pit bull and anti-dangerous dog legislation, but in his report, Dr. Ethan Lichtblau refused to confirm that the dog was a pit bull.
The dog's owner had registered the animal as a boxer but told police that it was a pit bull that he had adopted when it was a month old, and a DNA test by an American company showed the dog was seven-eighths American Staffordshire Terrier, however Dr. Lichtblau refused to agree with that assessment.
"I'm not vouching for the validity of this test. I'm just saying this is what the test says and I'll leave it at that," said Lichtblau.
He said other factors were just as important in making the dog aggressive, namely that it had been neglected and had attacked before.
According to Lichtblau's report, the owner said the dog had been attacked several times by other dogs while a puppy and that ever since it had been wary of strangers.
The owner also said the dog had chewed up the coat of someone who had tried to steal the dog the previous year.
In 2015 the dog had attacked two friends of the dog's owner who were in his home while he was out. Police told the injured people that the city would follow up, but that never happened.
In the report, the coroner says the dog was neglected because it was frequently left in a cage during the day, and was muzzled when left inside.
The owner said he frequently walked the dog for long periods of time, but the coroner pointed out neighbours could not confirm that account.
In his analysis, the coroner concludes that Vadnais's death was the sum of a series of tragic accidents that could have been avoided.
In his report Lichtblau expressed frustration with the lack of data regarding dog bites in many jurisdictions, saying he was unable to find any scientific papers saying that breed specific legislation reduced the number of dog bites, even though studies indicating otherwise have been cited in media reports.
He pointed out that many cities, states, and provinces have passed legislation banning dangerous breeds of dogs, but that they fail to then verify if their legislation is effective.
Lise Vadnais disagreed with Lichtblau's finding.
"For me, a pit bull will always be a dangerous dog," she said.
Mayor Denis Coderre also rejected the coroner's assessment.
"We believe that was the thing to do. We are waiting for the legislation of the government of Quebec on that issue and clearly that person was killed by a pit bull," said Coderre.
Lichtblau said that Quebec, which is still drawing up legislation to control animals, should use the opportunity to create a central registration for dog bites.
He also recommended the province take steps to ensure all animals get registered on an annual basis, and that municipalities create animal control teams to enforce laws.
The report also recommends sterilization for dogs.
Lichtblau also said that Bill 128 should include definitions of dangerous dogs, dangerous owners, and a combination of the two.
His report also tells the government it should launch a campaign to inform and educate the public about dangerous dogs and bite prevention.