West Island: animal heaven or abuser haven?

Anthony Abbondanza
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Area is behind in animal welfare legislation: founder of Animatch Dog Adoption

Six of nine cities and boroughs in the West Island fail to protect domestic animals from abuse, the Chronicle has learned.

Beaconsfield, Baie D’Urfe, Pointe Claire, Ste. Anne de Bellevue, and the boroughs of Pierrefonds-Roxboro and Ile Bizard-Ste. Genevieve do not have legislation protecting animals from abuse.

The current animal control bylaws in place, said Helen Lacroix, founder of Animatch Dog Adoption, are insufficient to protect domestic pets.

“We’re so behind and the welfare of animals is paying for it,” she said.

Provisions of animal welfare are only included in animal control bylaws in Dorval, Dollard des Ormeaux, and Kirkland. In Ile Bizard-Ste. Genevieve, domestic animals must not be abandoned or killed by the owner.

Still, the West Island is far behind the likes of Hudson, where earlier this month, officials announced plans to adopt a bylaw banning pet stores, puppy mills, and commercial breeders in a bid to promote animal welfare.

“I think the entire West Island needs to step up and do the same,” added Lacroix.

But not all agree with Lacroix’ assessment.

Puppy mills aside, Ste. Anne de Bellevue Mayor Paola Hawa doesn’t see the need to follow Hudson’s lead in protecting animal welfare.

“We have no intention to go that route for now,” adding the city briefly discussed the matter two years ago.

Meanwhile, in Pointe Claire, city spokesperson Marie-Pier Seguin refused the Chronicle’s request to interview mayor Morris Trudeau on the matter.

Ed Janiszewski, mayor of DDO, said the city will act if the number of known animal abusers grows.

But until then, the focus should be centred on the regulation of puppy mills. “We need regulations to control puppy mills to make sure animals are handled in a more humane manner,” said the mayor, who previously owned a 15-year-old Lhasa Apso.

Though DDO doesn’t officially host a puppy mill, they’re banned in all but one zone. According to Janiszewski, a potential puppy mill could open in an area located on Brunswick Boulevard as the municipality is prohibited from banning the said activity in all zones.

The West Island's poor record with respect to animal welfare legislation comes at a time when the Quebec government recently announced it would elevate the status of domestic animals from “personal property” to “sentient” beings. The distinction will redefine the status of an animal in the province’s Civil Code and ensure courts will render harsher penalties to abusers.

In the West Island, and more specifically Dorval, DDO, Kirkland, and Ile Bizard-Ste. Genevieve where legislation exists, fines to animal abusers do not exceed $300.

According to the Animal Legal Defense Fund, Quebec is ranked asamong the best places to be an animal abuser.

The San Francisco agency said both Quebec and Nunavut had the worst animal protection laws in Canada as of last summer.

Looking ahead

According to animal rights advocates, cities must first address animal-related bylaws, ensuring they address the safety and welfare of an animal.

That’s why the Montreal SPCA published a model animal bylaw on July 30. “We drafted this model bylaw in order to provide municipalities with an example of what they should be adopting in their communities,” said Alanna Devine, director of animal advocacy at the Montreal SPCA, in a statement.

The 20-page model bylaw considers the animals well-being to be compromised if: it doesn’t have access to drinkable water and the required quality food necessary for nourishment; kept in a setting which isn’t suitable, safe, clean, and tailored to their needs; and subject to physical abuse.

The said bylaw would also forbid owners from leaving their pets in a car when the outdoor temperature either exceeds 20C or falls below 10C among a plethora of other prohibitions.

Owners found in violation could be fined as little as $200 for a first offense to $2000 for a third offense and be forced to cede ownership of their animal.

But will cities and the boroughs on the West Island ever submit to such legislation?

They will, said the founder of Animatch, if residents place enough pressure. “If I’m paying dog licenses and taxes, I want to make sure Joe Blow isn’t abusing his animals,” said Lacroix.

The seeds of change may, in fact, already be in play.

With no measures in place to respond to calls of animal cruelty in Beaconsfield, city officials have begun discussing possible solutions.

City councillor and noted animal rights advocate Karen Messier said the current animal control bylaw “is quite outdated” and in need of revision.

“Every city should provide such protection for animals,” said Messier, referring to animal rights legislation in Dorval, DDO, and Kirkland.

Without disclosing the said discussions, Beaconsfield Mayor Georges Bourelle hinted future legislation could prohibit puppy mills and commercial breeding.

 “The objective is to protect animals from abuse for commercial benefit,” he said.

Officials of the cities of Baie D’Urfe, Dorval, and Kirkland and the boroughs of Pierrefonds-Roxboro and Ile Bizard-Ste. Genevieve couldn’t be reached for comment.

Organizations: Montreal SPCA, Animal Legal Defense Fund, San Francisco agency Joe Blow

Geographic location: West Island, Beaconsfield, Pointe Claire Quebec Bellevue Brunswick Boulevard Nunavut Canada

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