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If Dogs Could Vote in Montreal, Mayor Denis Coderre Would Be Toast

My dog Moose knows more about planning and infrastructure than Coderre does about animal welfare policy.

11/02/2017 18:24 EDT | Updated 11/02/2017 18:35 EDT
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Denis Coderre, mayor of Montreal, speaks during the Canada Summit in Montreal on Thursday, Sept. 7, 2017.

The city of Montreal will, on Sunday, choose their next mayor: either the stumbling incumbent, Denis Coderre, or the leader of the opposition, Valérie Plante. The great tragedy in this municipal election is that dogs have long been disenfranchised. Even dogs who are 18 years old (a rarity) will not be permitted to help send the arrogant M. Coderre where he belongs: a nice pasture, where he can graze harmlessly and not impose ignorant canine legislation, based on the advice of quacks.

M. Coderre, who seems to have no better judgment than Donald Trump when it comes to picking advisors, is famed internationally for punishing Montreal with a ban on pit bulls: a regressive and discredited legal idiocy, guaranteed to cause dogs to die and to contribute nothing to the safety of humans.

Dogs, unlike the good mayor, are sensible. Polls have demonstrated (OK, would demonstrate) that they overwhelmingly prefer the advice of accredited professionals to the swinish propaganda disseminated by bigots and unqualified charlatans.

Consider the organizations that have studied breed bans and deemed them worthless: the American Veterinary Medical Association, the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, the ASPCA, the British Veterinary Association, the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (in both the U.K. and Australia)... and at least 13 more expert groups — the ones listed here.

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Now, consider the dominant voices in favour of breed-specific legislation.

First you have Dogsbite, a website managed by Colleen Lynn. Before becoming an anti-pit-bull crusader, Lynn was a professional fortune teller, who went by the name "Divine Lady, Beholder of the Soul."

Bronwen Dickey, in her exhaustive study, Pit Bull: The Battle Over an American Icon (Knopf), determined that "Lynn has no professional credentials in statistics, epidemiology, or animal behavior; neither do the sources she relies upon most frequently."

Then you have — more notoriously — Merritt Clifton, a self-styled expert who "possesses no relevant credentials," and has lied about having a list of impressive academic publications. Clifton's woefully inadequate statistics — gathered from a woefully incomplete selection of news reports and Craigslist ads — were recently decimated by a CBC investigation (in French). The incensed Mr. Clifton complained, and was subsequently spanked by a neutral ombudsman (in English).

The incumbent mayor prefers the clueless cranks. They — via such uncritical journalists as Barbara Kay of the National Post— have bent the ear and mind of the mayor, as a consequence of which Montreal suffers beneath the same law that, imposed in Ontario in 2005, has seen an increase in dog bites: "Toronto's reported dog bites have been rising since 2012, and in 2013 and 2014 reached their highest levels this century, even as pit bulls and similar dogs neared local extinction."

Yes, Canada has produced not simply the information-impaired Coderre, but also landmark techniques to reduce dog bites and to keep innocent dogs from being exiled and slaughtered.

In Ireland, a breed ban saw a 21-per-cent increase in hospitalization from dog attacks. Snopes has confirmed the statistical correlation between BSL and an eventual rise in dog bites "everywhere that breed bans have been enacted and enforced, or at least places records of bites are kept."

The mayor's opponent, Valérie Plante, has pledged to revoke the breed ban on the first day of her term. She proposes to introduce the Calgary Model: a program hailed worldwide as a groundbreaking advance in dog safety legislation. Yes, Canada has produced not simply the information-impaired Coderre, but also landmark techniques to reduce dog bites and to keep innocent dogs from being exiled and slaughtered. Is it any wonder that dogs, city-wide, have been canvassing for Ms. Plante?

The Calgary Model — breed neutral — stresses human responsibility: rigorous leash laws; punishment of those who inflict dangerous dogs upon the city; and — above all — education. Both dogs and humans must be trained and socialized: both are taught how to act in ways that keep their fellow citizens safe.

Note that the Calgary Model is cheaper than a breed ban, but requires real work. If the laws are not enforced, then the model can produce less exciting results; and recently Calgary has proven unfortunately lax. This is an issue: there's no question that doing nothing — or throwing money at useless legislation — is seductive to the lazy. But Valérie Plante has thus far evinced the kind of energy that makes the Calgary approach successful. (Environmentalists tend to be like this: recycling, for instance, is not for the slothful.)

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Julia Doane, a worker at the MSPCA in Methuen, Mass., plays with a two-year-old female pit bull named Sammi on Oct. 23, 2017.

When Calgary was genuinely devoted to maintaining their program, the results were predictably stellar: they "saw a five-fold reduction over 20 years — from 10 bites per 10,000 people in 1986 to two in 2006."

It has been a long time since I lived in Montreal — although I considered it home off and on for years — so I cannot vote in this municipal election. Neither can my two dogs, but they have assured me that they would disown me should I not pull the lever for Ms. Plante, the candidate who chooses science over pseudo-science. (People who don't talk to their dogs are of course mentally ill. The jury's still out on people who hear their dogs talking back.)

If Valérie Plante can be trusted to make this kind of choice when it comes to animal welfare legislation, she can probably be trusted to do the same with policy across the spectrum. This matters to my dogs, who have wide-ranging and divergent interests: Moose (tiny mutt) cares deeply about planning and infrastructure; Pixel (Italian Greyhound) is bent on ensuring that experimental dance theatre is properly funded. Please note that — even if it's not saying much — both have greater knowledge of these issues than Mayor Coderre does of animal welfare policy.

NOTE: I have written Galunker, a children's book about a pit bull. Illustrated by Dula Yavne, the book is designed to combat the prejudice against the breed, and to teach children how to safely interact with all dogs. Galunker was a major Kickstarter success, and will be available for purchase in time for Christmas. It was just featured in a City TV segment, and has already been reviewed twice by Barbara Kay (who hasn't read it). After you finish voting for Valérie Plante, please visit the Galunker page to find details about ordering the book.

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