Victory For Montreal’s Pit Bulls!

A Montreal by-law prohibiting pit bull adoption is on hold until a new hearing can take place. Photo Credit: Robie Price via Getty Images

(ANIMAL NEWS/PIT BULLS) Just two days after going into effect, Montreal’s pit bull ban is suspended indefinitely.

The proposed ban–affecting an estimated 7,000 dogs throughout the city–prohibits people from adopting “pit bull type dogs,” and would require existing pit bull parents to undergo a criminal background check, muzzle their dogs when outdoors, and obtain a special $150 permit.

Animal rights groups–most notably the Montreal SPCA–have strongly advocated against the ban as it would mean a death sentence for pit bulls in all Montreal shelters, and would place an unnecessary burden on low-income or homeless pet parents with dogs classified as pit bulls–this includes American pit bull terriers, American Staffordshire terriers, and Staffordshire bull terriers.

Justice Louis Gouin of Quebec Superior Court decided the legislation should be put on hold while reviewing the Montreal SPCA’s ongoing lawsuit against the city, which argues the law is so vague that it puts any large-headed dog at risk.

This comes as great news for the city’s shelter dogs who would be considered “unadoptable” under the ban, and provides them with more much-needed time to find new homes outside the city.

Read on for more on the Montreal SPCA’s efforts and see how you can help the city’s pit bulls at the links below. — Global Animal

A Montreal by-law prohibiting pit bull adoption is on hold until a new hearing can take place. Photo Credit: Robie Price via Getty Images
Legislation prohibiting pit bull adoption in Montreal’s 19 burroughs is currently on hold until a new hearing can take place. Photo Credit: Robie Price via Getty Images

World Animal News, Margot Ryan

Montreal’s plans to ban pit bulls from the city have been suspended indefinitely. This announcement comes just two days after it went into effect.

On Wednesday September 5, Quebec Superior Court Justice, Louis Gouin granted the Montreal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals’ their request to suspend elements of the bylaw pertaining to “pit-bull-type dogs” which was adopted by Montreal last week.

During Gouin’s ruling, he said that clauses of the bylaw looked as if they had been written in haste and raised more questions than they had answered. He then suggested that the city “go back to the drawing board.”

Montreal had planned to enact the bylaw which placed a ban on any new ownership of pit-bull-type dogs and required previous owners to apply for special $150 annual permits, submit criminal background checks, and keep their dogs on short leashes and muzzles while outside. Because of the suspension, owners will no longer have to comply with these requirements. Other elements of the law that will remain in effect are those requiring harnesses for dogs weighing more than 20 kilograms and that all dogs and cats have licenses. Fines start at $300 for those who fail to comply.

The SPCA was extremely concerned with the outcome of this ban which they argued was discriminatory toward dogs that are not dangerous. They said that the city was overly vague with their definition of pit bull-type dogs, and could lead to the euthanizing of hundreds of healthy, well-behaved animals.

Gouin agreed that it was urgent to grant an immediate suspension for the bylaw since it had just came into effect Monday. He then ordered a two day suspension in efforts to protect dogs and their owners in the interim.

Meet "Nana the earless pibble" who was saved from a life of abuse. Photo Credit: Facebook - Nana the Earless Pibble
Meet “Nana the earless pibble” who was saved from her abusive home of 8 years. Photo Credit: Facebook – Nana the Earless Pibble

The city’s definition of a “pit-bull-type dog,” included mixed-breed dogs and dogs that had the same characteristics as a pit bull or a mixed-breed dog. This definition was so broad that the judge felt that owners may not even know that they were being targeted for their dog. The city replied saying it was a matter of “common sense” and the lawyer’s contention was that “if it looks like a duck, walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it’s gotta be a duck.” Gouin noted that this was not a sufficient defense.

The city was effectively targeting a vast category of dogs that are not, for the most part, dangerous, Gouin wrote.

Montreal may have overstepped its legal competency, Gouin wrote, and created measures irreconcilable with the Quebec law on the well-being and security of animals.

“As laudable as the objectives of the city are in terms of prevention to promote security, the court had the clear impression that certain articles of the bylaw were written in haste, in reaction to a recent unfortunate event. This is what pushed the court to suggest to the city that a return to the drawing board should maybe be in order to review some of the clauses in the bylaw,” Gouin wrote.

The plans for a pit bull ban was announced by Mayor Denis Coderre, 10 days after a 55-year-old resident of Pointe-aux-Trembles was attacked by her neighbor’s dog in June, but the dog’s breed has not yet been confirmed.

A spokesperson for Coderre said the city is reviewing Gouin’s ruling.

Sophie Gaillard, a lawyer for the SPCA, said the ruling is “a great victory, but the fight is far from over.” It will probably be a few months before a hearing can be held on the SPCA’s full legal appeal to have sections of the bylaw retracted, she said.

“We know, thanks to scientific research, that behaviour is unrelated to physical appearance,” Gaillard said. “What leads dogs to develop aggressive behaviour is not at all their breed, but it’s the way they’re treated, whether they’re sterilized or not, how they’re trained.”

Before the final ruling, Coderre defended the bylaw by saying that Montreal had taken a balanced approach to the issue in efforts to protect the public.

“We need to protect the people, not only when you walk with the dog, when you live with the dog,” Coderre told reporters Wednesday. “You can send me all the emails you want, I’m here to protect the population.”

City councillor Sterling Downey, a spokesperson for the opposition Project Montréal, said the ruling proves the bylaw was rushed and poorly conceived.

“It was full of holes everywhere,” he said. “A bylaw (should) be drafted and written based on facts, science and expert opinion,” he said. “If you want to do something responsibly, then take the time to do it. This is the mayor saying, ‘Do it now, I want it immediately.”

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