By Gaby Dufresne-Cyr, CBT-FLE
Dear M. Trudeau,
I know you’re a busy man, so I’ll make my plight short, at least I'll try.
As a Quebec citizen, you must be aware of Montreal mayor Denis Coderre’s decision to unilaterally ban a certain breed of dog. Please don’t stop reading because I mentioned dogs, I’m not a freak. Actually, I’ve been an animal behaviour consultant, wolf trainer, Concordia University Family Educator undergraduate, Concordia University psychology student, founder and operator of the Dogue Shop animal behaviour school, CEGEP animal behaviour and training teacher, and high school animal-assisted therapy in three EMSB establishments for nearly 30 years.
M. Trudeau, might I call you Justin? It’s easier for my learning disability. You see, I learned I had a learning disability at Dowson College when I was 22. Why is this important and relevant to Denis Coderre’s plan to kill all dogs with square heads? My short answer is the following. I stayed in school and achieved all that I have because of my dogs. We had Great Danes and my love for them has taken me way beyond what I thought I could accomplish in life, and that, Justin, is specifically why I teach animal-assisted therapy to at-risk teens and teach animal behaviour in general.
My animal-assisted therapy program is run in collaboration with an awesome team of, you guessed it, human volunteers and their Pitbulls. There, I said it. I said the “P” word, but please let me explain. The pitbull is not a recognized breed, even Coderre acknowledged that here at 18 seconds. Staffordshires belong to a class of dogs called molossers. Molosser means big head, square body, and rose ears (or variants). This group of dogs is agile, multifunctional, athletic, motivated, and smart. They have been around for over a century because of those human-made characteristics. If anything, those are the reasons we love them so darn much.
I'm airing on the long side of things, dagnabit, but don’t worry, I’m getting to the point. Remember, I have a learning disability and I’m writing this without help.
Denis Coderre wants to pass a by-law that makes no sense whatsoever, plus he doesn’t want to listen to the committee he put in place to study the problem. As a matter of fact, he doesn’t want to listen to experts, the SPCA, lawyers, dog trainers, vets, and the general population who keeps demanding owner responsibility and mandatory owner education.
I don’t want to get into finances, so let me just say BSL (Breed Specific Legislation) is very expensive and it doesn’t reduce dog bites or deaths. Heck, the Canadian dog death average hasn’t dropped since Ontario banned Pitbulls in 2005. Canada still counts 2-3 dog-related deaths per year in our country. FYI, those statistics are found on your government website.
Justin, I’m personally asking you for a giant favour. Could you talk to M. Coderre before September 26th and explain to him that:
- Banning specific breeds will NOT reduce dog bites or deaths.
- Banning Pitbulls will not make them go away (ask Ontario).
- Molossers are not one breed and are not more aggressive.
- Dogs cannot be muzzled 24/7 (by-law 55) till December 2016.
- Pitbulls don't have a bigger bite pressure.
- The website dogsbite .org is a biased organization with no valid or verifiable sources or references. In short, it lies about everything.
- Montreal needs to take ownership of Mme. Vadnais' death because the city already knew the dog who killed her was problematic*.
- There are no educational programs discussed in the by-law.
- Hundreds, not to say thousands, of dogs, will die, and families will be devastated.
I could go on, but I said I would keep it short.
As mentioned above, I teach and conduct animal-assisted therapy with at-risk teens. How could I conduct my sessions with muzzled dogs? Change breeds you say? I can’t imagine our teens working with Poodles and Chihuahuas. Teens connect with Pitbulls because they remind them of themselves. Staffies (as we affectionately call them) are stereotyped and it’s that very specific association that allows us to enter and teach adolescent kids life can be different. Teens learn they can do whatever they set their minds to BECAUSE dogs can do it. And by it, I mean good things, obviously.
Justin, this by-law proposal is the least thought-out project I’ve ever read; it’s not even coherent. Denis Coderre needs to be stopped so we can create by-laws that would reduce bites (ask Calgary) and educate people. Heck, Montreal could make money from such programs. I know, it sounds awesome, right? Unfortunately, M. Coderre won’t listen. He even said, “I’ll answer all the dog people’s questions with the same answer” at last week’s council.
So, Justin, it's come down to this. One person (me) asking another person (you) to place a hold on a by-law. M. Coderre needs to hear from a higher power that his by-law is not the solution. At least not the one he proposes. I know my quest is not a matter of national security or about military paychecks (you met one of my students last Saturday at the Longue-Pointe army base; he volunteers with his Pitbull Reggie in my animal-assisted therapy program).
I just put that last bit of information there because the world is a small place, and what affects one affects others. Many people find themselves in my position; their dogs are family or work partners. As you know Justin, dogs play an important role in our lives, and as my friend would say Haste makes waste! I risk losing part of my income with this by-law, and, like many others, I risk losing my partner in the process. Therefore, I’m asking you, dear Justin, to at least call the man and talk some sense into him.
Till then, many thousand thanks in advance.
My list is long, way too long to post here, so I'll send them to you should you need information when you talk with M. Coderre. My e-mail is email@example.com
* Many other dogs are known to be problematic by the city's canine patrol officers, but M. Coderre still doesn’t do anything about those cases. Might he be waiting for another death to ban those breeds? I don't know! I have learned one thing from all this though, when push comes to shove, Denis Coderre is the real bully!