Four months after a brutal dog attack that claimed the life of a 55-year old woman, Mayor Denis Coderre and the City Council of Montreal approved a change to the city’s animal control bylaws this Tuesday. These changes include a ban on new ownership of pit bull or pit bull-type dogs as well as restrictions on those already owning the breed. This comes as an effort to increase public security. This bylaw requires that these dogs be sterilized, muzzled at all times while outside, be kept on a 1.25-metre-long leash, and that owners obtain a special permit. All pit bull-type dogs currently in shelters or found as strays will be euthanized. This ban was approved despite outcry from animal rights groups and advocates who claim that breed-specific legislation is discriminatory and ineffective. They point out that similar legislation has been adopted by other cities but have since been repealed. The Quebec Order of Veterinarians has stated that vets within Montreal are under no obligation to euthanize pit bulls and the Montreal SPCA has threatened to end dog-control services within the city. On Wednesday, the Montreal SPCA announced that it will launch a lawsuit against the City of Montreal, with the intent to suspend the application of this ban in order to then have it ruled illegal by Quebec’s Superior Court. In its statement, the animal welfare organisation claims that this ban is contrary to both article 898.1 of the Civil Code of Quebec, which grants animals the status of sentient beings, and the Animal Welfare and Safety Act. A judicial review of the Montreal pit bull bylaw is to be heard by Superior Court Justice Claude Champagne on Monday, October 3rd – the same day the ban goes into effect.
In the mean time, many are taking to social media to voice their anger and disappoint towards the ban, including celebrities such as Cyndi Lauper and Sophia Bush. Petitions demanding for its repeal have begun circulating the Internet and have amassed as many as 150,000 signatures from people all over the world. Animal welfare organizations throughout the country are also doing their part and attempting to get as many dogs as they can out of the city’s shelters before it is too late, including many organizations from Nova Scotia. BSL, or Breed Specific Legislation, highlights the on-going debate surrounding particular breeds of dogs such as pit bulls and rottweilers. Many argue that these breeds are inherently more aggressive compared to others, while some disagree and state that the issue boils down to irresponsible owners and inhumane treatment. Whatever the case may be, those who oppose the ban believe that the City of Montreal has the responsibility to act impartially and not be influenced by stereotypes when passing legislation.