29th May 1999

Rt. Honourable Jean Chretien
Office of the Prime Minister
125 Sussex Drive
Ottawa, Ontario

Re: National Dog Bite Awareness Campaign

Dear Prime Minister,

I am writing on to confirm that The Humane Society of Canada is willing to commit $ 1 million of our resources to prevent dog bites. However, we can't do it without your help and that of the Provincial and Territorial Governments

We are asking for your help in working together with other elected officials and government agencies in a concerted effort to solve this serious health crisis which exists in every community across Canada.

I recently gave expert evidence at a Coroner's Inquest into the death of an Ontario girl. Last year, eight year old Courtney Trempe was playing in a neighbour's backyard just north of Toronto, when she was attacked and killed by the neighbour's five year old dog. The recommendations by Coroner Barry McLellan and the jury are both detailed and practical.

However, they are also greatly disturbing - because they echo those made in February 1998 by Quebec Coroner Pierre Brochu and the jury in their report of the circumstances of the death of five year old Dariane Blouin of St.Tite-des-Caps who was killed by two sled dogs owned by his father.

On a personal note, as a parent with two small children (Pierce is now nine years old and my daughter Elan is four years of age), I am deeply concerned over cases where children and adults have been harmed or even killed, and the dogs destroyed as a result.

Canada is a nation of people who care deeply about animals. There are an estimated 4 million dogs and 4.5 million cats alone living in homes across the country. A study by Statistics Canada estimates that out of 11.5 million households, that every second home has a pet of some kind, everything from birds to hamsters to fish.

In our view, the underlying theme of a National Dog Bite Awareness Campaign is that society needs to protect children and adults, while at the same time fostering an appreciation of the benefits of the age old relationship that exists between people and animals. I am certain you would agree that working to achieve these objectives must be everyone's responsibility.

Therefore, while I am writing to you on behalf of our 110,000 supporters nationwide and on behalf of the millions of families living with their dogs - I am also writing to you on behalf of those millions of Canadians who chose not to own dogs and whose interests also need to be respected.

The idea of "street proofing" our children, protecting them from the hazards of traffic, talking to strangers, taking drugs are all a part of living in today's society. In a like minded fashion, we need to teach our children and others that they should know how to recognize and avoid when dogs are going to attack.

While at the same time, we should never forget that for centuries, dogs have been our friends, our protectors and our companions. Indeed, most of the 4 million dogs in Canada never bite or kill humans. We need to strike a balance in this long and positive relationship not by making people fearful, but by helping the public at large, and dog owners, by teaching them to develop a healthy respect and awareness of how we interact with dogs in our society.

We believe this can best be accomplished by a National Dog Bite Awareness Campaign that provides realistic short, medium and long range goals and with specific measured deliverables.

In order to be successful, this campaign would have to embody a number of critical elements, which would result in a balanced program of education and enforcement and at the very least, would include:

  • a review of the effectiveness of existing civil and criminal legislation in Canada and other countries;
  • the experience of these jurisdictions in launching public education initiatives to "street proof" against dog bites and to encourage more responsible pet ownership (e.g. spaying and neutering, requiring breeders and trainers to be licensed, humane training of owners and their dogs, animals being kept on a harness, leash, muzzle, etc.)
  • establishment of a national agency to collect and analyze the reports of animal attacks and related fatalities to record and better understand why these attacks take place and what we can do to prevent them;
  • specific recommendations for a multimedia and multifaceted campaign to reduce the number and frequency of these tragedies;
  • recommendations on what government agencies and what interagency cooperation would be necessary to achieve these objectives.

The Humane Society of Canada is prepared to assist with the funding, expertise and delivery needed to incorporate this type of program into mainstream public education initiatives and school curricula in every community across Canada.

We are also prepared to assist with the establishment and operation of a nationwide agency that will track and analyze dog bites and the reasons why they take place, carry out scientific research, and work to develop even more effective measures to encourage responsible pet ownership and reduce dog bites, and better understand the patterns of medical care needed for dog bite victims.

In order for such an agency and an educational program to succeed, they must result in the creation of effective and sustained mechanisms that can be effectively implemented in every community nationwide.

To this end, provided that The Humane Society of Canada takes a lead role in the establishment and operation of these initiatives, we are willing to commit $ 1 million of our resources to begin these educational programs as soon as possible.

I am aware of your own personal concern for the welfare of children and animals, and I look forward to working together with you on these important issues of social concern.

Awaiting your reply, I remain, yours sincerely,


Michael O'Sullivan
Executive Director

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NOTE: A full copy of the findings of the Coroner's Inquest can be found by visiting our website