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Canada Judge sides with woman fighting Montreal's order to euthanize dog

17:00  15 november  2019
17:00  15 november  2019 Source:   montrealgazette.com

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a man holding a dog: Marylou Trahan is seen with her dog, Zuri. © Photo courtesy of Marylou Trahan Marylou Trahan is seen with her dog, Zuri.

From the moment the city of Montreal ordered her dog euthanized for fatally biting another dog, all Marylou Trahan says she wanted was a chance to explain her pet’s behaviour.

After challenging the order in court, a judge has now given her that chance.

“When there’s a dog bite, you can’t just look at the bite itself. You need to consider the dog’s history and what led to it,” Trahan, who works as an animal health technician, said this week.

“My dog is anxious. Not dangerous.”

The city issued the euthanization order under its animal-control bylaw two summers ago . Per the city’s regulations, any dog that fatally bites another is categorized as dangerous and is to be euthanized within 48 hours.

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In a ruling issued Nov. 1, Quebec Superior Court Judge Frédéric Bachand cancelled the euthanization order, which had been stayed during the proceedings, and sent the matter back to the city to be re-evaluated.

The judge added the clause that city authorities will now need to consider Trahan’s opinion on whether her dog is dangerous before deciding if a euthanization order is warranted.

The incident in question took place in Lachine in August 2018.

According to the decision, Trahan and a neighbour agreed to let their dogs play in an alley behind their homes. Trahan thought her dog, a German shepherd-husky mix named Zuri, would be playing with her neighbour’s husky.

She went inside to grab Zuri’s muzzle and, in the meantime, her neighbour opened her fence door. But instead of his husky, he had his 17-year-old miniature schnauzer. Zuri attacked the dog and it died soon after.

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Trahan says Zuri, 6, has a history of anxiety. She was already taking precautions before the bite: The dog is followed by a veterinarian for its behaviour, always has a muzzle on in public, is never off-leash and is never walked by children alone.

But none of that was discussed when two city of Montreal employees met with Trahan after the bite, she says.

Meeting at her home, they asked her to fill out a statement about what happened. As soon as she was done writing, she says, they told her she would be receiving a euthanization order.

“Either the decision to euthanize was made before Ms. Trahan completed the form, or the city made that decision immediately after Ms. Trahan completed the form, and thus without taking the time to really consider her point of view,” Bachand ruled.

Trahan’s statement also doesn’t mention whether she believes Zuri is a dangerous dog or if a euthanization order would be justified, Bachand added, leading him to believe the city “did not invite Ms. Trahan to speak on these two issues.”

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The city had argued that per its animal-control bylaw, it had no choice but to order Zuri euthanized after the bite. But Bachand wrote that by his reading of the bylaw, it isn’t clear whether that’s the case or if the city does have some leeway when dealing with a deadly bite.

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Bachand noted the city’s animal-control bylaw came into effect after the “tragic incident” of 2016, alluding to the death of Christiane Vadnais, the Pointe-aux-Trembles woman killed by a neighbour’s dog in her backyard.

The judge positioned the case as a balancing act between two fundamental values that “have a broad social consensus”: public security and animal welfare. He ruled Trahan’s position better meets that balance.

The city of Montreal declined to comment for this report.

Trahan, 25, has since moved away from the city. She said she is relieved by the ruling and is open to having Zuri evaluated to determine the dog’s dangerousness, as long as her input is considered.

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What she has always wanted the city to understand, she added, is that a dog’s behaviour can affect its actions. Just because it bites once, she said, doesn’t necessarily mean it will again.

She doesn’t believe Zuri will.

jfeith@postmedia.com

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