The Montreal SPCA Reacts to the Coroner’s Report on the Death of Christiane Vadnais

bureau_coronerMontreal, October 2, 2017 – Today, the Coroner’s Office issued a report on its investigation of the death of Christiane Vadnais, who was killed by a dog identified by the media as a “pitbull” in June 2016. The tragic and highly publicized incident triggered the announcement of new breed-specific legislation (BSL) at municipal and provincial levels. In Montreal, the incident rushed adoption of a new animal control by-law targeting certain dog breeds, mixes of these breeds, and dogs displaying certain morphological characteristics. At the provincial level, the Minister of Public Security, Martin Coiteux, introduced Bill 128 prohibiting certain breeds, although the bill has yet to be studied by a parliamentary committee. The Montreal SPCA commends the Coroner’s Office for its excellent report, which we hope will set the record straight on the ineffectiveness of BSL.

The Coroner’s report released this morning sheds light on the context of Ms. Vadnais’ death, in particular by highlighting two important facts:

  • The dog who killed Ms. Vadnais had a known history of aggression and had, only a fewmonths earlier, attacked two people, one seriously enough to require hospitalization. According to the police report on the incident, municipal authorities were notified but it would appear that no follow-up was done. The Coroner’s Office even raises the possibility that Ms. Vadnais’ tragic death could have been prevented if municipal authorities had conducted a follow-up.
  • The dog was a victim of neglect and most likely had been poorly socialized, which, according to the coroner, likely resulted in an extremely frustrated and aggressive animal.

In addition, the report highlights current scientific knowledge of canine behaviour, drawing the following conclusions:

  • Any dog, regardless of breed, can be dangerous. Inadequate socialization, improper training and being unsterilized are key factors in the development of aggressive behaviour.
  • Visual breed identification is not reliable, even when carried out by experts.
  • BSL is an ineffective way of preventing dog bites. No peer-reviewed academic or scientific research justifies this type of measure.

Finally, the report criticizes the shortcomings of Bill 128, namely its BSL component, noting in particular the lack of scientific evidence supporting such measures and the unnecessary costs they incur. The report concludes that any legislation aimed at reducing the incidence of dog bites should focus on owner responsibility and educating the public rather than breed-specific measures.

“This independent investigation conducted by the Coroner’s Office supports what the Montreal SPCA has been advocating for over a year. That is, an effective solution to the problem of dog bites must target the factors that truly contribute to the development of aggressive behaviour, instead of focusing on arbitrary criteria such as breed or physical characteristics,” explains Sophie Gaillard, lawyer for the Animal Advocacy Department of the Montreal SPCA. “We hope that the provincial government will follow the recommendations made today by the Coroner’s Office and undertake a thorough review of Bill 128, which, by banning certain breeds, is not only ineffective, but would also result in the systematic killing of enormous numbers of dogs in shelters throughout Quebec.”

Click here to learn more about the Montreal SPCA’s recommendations for effective and responsible dangerous dog legislation . We also encourage you to visit to sign a petition and send letters to Minister Martin Coiteux, as well as members of the National Assembly who sit on the parliamentary committee responsible for reviewing Bill 128.


Media contact: Anita Kapuscinska, Communications Manager, Montreal SPCA, 514 359-5198, or

About the Montreal SPCA
Founded in Montreal in 1869, we were the first animal welfare society in Canada and our mission is to:

  • protect animals against negligence, abuse, and exploitation;
  • represent their interests and ensure their well-being;
  • raise public awareness and help develop compassion for all living beings.

For more information about the Montreal SPCA, please visit our website at


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