The provincial government is giving municipalities more power to deal with dangerous dogs, and to make sure the law is consistently applied across the province.

Public Security Minister Genevieve Guilbault is using executive powers to modify existing laws regarding dangerous dogs and animal welfare.

Guilbault said Wednesday morning that once a dog inflicts a serious wound or kills a person, municipalities must order the dog euthanized.

"I think this is a good day for public safety in Quebec today," she said.

The decree explicitly gives municipalities the power to seize dogs, evaluate them, and to ban people from owning dogs.

If a veterinarian declares a dog dangerous, that classification will then be made by the municipality and will have to be respected in other cities and towns.

Dogs considered dangerous will have to be vaccinated against rabies, microchipped and sterilized, and wear a halter or muzzle in public spaces, along with a leash. Dog owners who break the rules will face fines.

Guilbault said that the province has to act to keep people safe and that the wellbeing of humans takes precedence over animals.

"We prefer to have this regulation that is really concrete, really useful, that gives specific powers and tools to municipalities, to all municipalities in the province of Quebec," she said.


How will a dangerous dog be defined?

It will be diagnosis that will be made by vets, said Guilbault.

"They are the experts to be able to make that kind of diagnosis and they give their reports to municipalities – they can decide whether or not they can give the statute of ‘dangerous dog’ to a dog. If they do, it comes with a lot of elements that they need to comply with. This is a pretty restrictive regulation and I am hopeful that it will increase public security everywhere in the province," she explained.

No breed-specific legislation

The province decided against controversial breed-specific legislation after consulting with experts and looking at other regulations within Canada and worldwide.

"It is really difficult to establish a specific breed for a dog and it is also difficult for police officers and lawyers to establish proof in a trial, so because of all that, we prefer to have this legislation that is really concrete, really useful, that gives specific tools and powers to all municipalities," Guilbault said.


Vadnais death a 'heartbreaking situation'

In her announcement, Guilbault specifically referred to the 2016 death of Christiane Vadnais, who was killed in her own backyard by a neighbour's dog in Montreal.

"This has been a heartbreaking situation," said Guilbault. "I was working at the coroners' office at the time and so I worked under the coroner's report at the time, and so I was really, really sad for Mrs. Vadnais, and I admire her [sister Lise's] activism in the cause... I had the privilege to meet with her earlier this morning and I thanked her for all her work."

Lise Vadnais was emotional on hearing the news.

"I was very touched this finally happened today," she said.

Lise Vadnais had lobbied for breed-specific legislation, which was rolled out by the Liberals and adopted last June amid backlash. Vadnais said Bill 128 was a long way from what her family had hoped and fought for in hearings.

"It was much too vague. Now it's more specific," she said.

Earlier this year Anne-France Goldwater was challenging the city of Montreal's attempts to euthanize a dog that attacked six people in 2018 and had been declared dangerous.

Goldwater had argued that the behavioural evaluation was inadequate since it contravened provincial legislation describing animals as sentient beings.

A judge ruled in March that the dog was indeed dangerous and must be euthanized.