The Montreal SPCA’s Fight Against Breed-Specific Legislation

Room: Montreal 6-7

Sophie Gaillard, Director of Animal Advocacy, SPCA de Montréal

In June 2016, a Montreal woman was tragically mauled and killed by a dog identified in the media as a “pit bull.”  Shortly thereafter, Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre announced his intention to ban “pit bulls” and did in fact adopt breed-specific legislation (BSL) a few months later. The following year, the Quebec government followed suit and introduced a bill aiming to implement province-wide BSL, which would have sentenced tens of thousands of adoptable shelter dogs to death. Fortunately, thanks to efforts led by the Montreal SPCA, including a high-profile lawsuit challenging BSL, Coderre’s municipal bylaw was ultimately repealed, and the provincial bill defeated. This talk will provide an inside look into the Montreal SPCA’s successful fight against BSL.


  1. Why and how BSL was adopted in Montreal and nearly adopted province-wide.
  2. What legal, political and communications strategies were used by the Montreal SPCA to successfully fight BSL at both levels of government.
  3. What lessons were learned along the way.

Sophie Gaillard joined the Montreal SPCA in 2013, after having graduated from McGill University’s Faculty of Law and articling at the Director of Criminal and Penal Prosecutions office in Montreal. In her role as director of animal advocacy, she supervises the SPCA’s inspectors, as well as acting as a liaison with prosecutors and other law enforcement. Me. Gaillard also works on initiatives to strengthen animal protection legislation at the municipal, provincial and federal levels. She is namely one of the instigators of the Animals Are Not Things manifesto, which led to the adoption of a new disposition in the Civil Code of Quebec recognizing animals as sentient beings.

Sophie Gaillard s’est jointe à la SPCA de Montréal in 2013, après avoir été diplômée par la Faculté de droit de l’Université McGill et complété son stage du Barreau au bureau du Directeur des poursuites criminelles et pénales à Montréal. En tant que directrice de la défense des animaux, Me Gaillard supervise l’équipe d’inspecteurs de la SPCA et agit comme liaison avec les procureurs et les corps policiers. Elle travaille également sur des initiatives visant à renforcer la législation en matière de protection animale aux niveaux municipal, provincial et fédéral. Elle est notamment une des instigatrices du manifeste Les animaux ne sont pas des choses qui a mené à l’adoption d’une nouvelle disposition au Code civil du Québec reconnaissant les animaux comme des êtres sensibles.