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Pit Bulls To Be Banned In Montreal, Under A Strict New Bylaw

Steph Skardal
Wikimedia Commons
Montreal's ban on pit bulls went into effect Monday, and was later put on hold until Wednesday. The bylaw prohibits people from getting pit bulls, and places restrictions on those who already own pit bulls.

A bylaw banning pit bulls in the city of Montreal has been placed on hold until Wednesday. The law would prohibit people from owning pit bulls and other related breeds and place restrictions those who already own these types of dogs.

The bylaw passed the Montreal city council last week and already two lawsuits have been brought in opposition. It was set to go into effect on Monday, but in the evening a judge placed a temporary hold on the law.

Quebec, the province where Montreal is, has been contemplating a ban on pit bulls, but Montreal’s decision to pass its own ban was spurred by the fatal mauling of a 55-year-old woman in June.

VPR spoke with Ainslie MacLellan, a reporter and video journalist with CBC News in Montreal, to learn more about the ban.

VPR: What are the specifics of this new law in Montreal?

MacLellan: “Montreal is broken up into 19 different boroughs and had this piecemeal situation when it came to animal control. Every different area of the city had different rules in terms of how many pets you could own [and] whether the pit bulls were allowed. The city decided that it had to really put in rules that applied everywhere and also crack down on what it called ‘dangerous dogs.’ [These] were dogs that bit humans [and] attacked for killed other animals.”

What is a pit bull defined as under this law?

“This is the most complicated part. It says an American Staffordshire Terrier, an American Pit Bull Terrier or a Staffordshire Bull Terrier or a mix of any of those breeds or — and this is the most controversial part — any dog that shares several morphological characteristics of any of those breeds.”

What happens if you already own a pit bull or a dog defined as a pit bull under the law?

“You have to get special license to be able to keep it. That license will cost $150 a year and you have to meet some stringent criteria to be able to keep it.

“You also have to make sure that the dog is muzzled in public at all times, [including] when it's in your backyard as well. You have to have a certain height fence in your backyard and you have to keep it on a leash that's no longer than 4 feet.

“As of today, new pit bulls can't [be adopted] in the city of Montreal. [This] has raised a lot of questions about what happens to dogs that didn't already have owners. The SPCA [Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals] has said it's unwilling to put those dogs down [and] it's even launched a legal challenge against the city of Montreal for this bylaw.”

How is the city enforcing these new rules?

“If a pit bull owner violates any of those elements of the bylaws ... they're considered to have forfeited their pit bull’s permit. And then it's up to a bylaw officer to decide whether or not that dog should be put down.

"If they’re ordered to [to have] the dog put down, it's a very short window. Forty-eight hours ... to take it to a vet to have it put down and another 24 to prove that this has been done. This could be problematic, though, because the Order of Veterinarians has already said that its members are allowed to refuse to euthanize a healthy pit bull.”

Are visitors allowed to bring their pit bulls to Montreal?

“Under the bylaw, if you have a dog that's registered in the jurisdiction that you come from, it's allowed to be on the territory of Montreal for up to 30 days without requiring a license, except in the case of a pit bull.

“If you have something that you think might be a pit bull, if you're one of those people who's in the situation that you have a mixed breed dog and you're not sure if it looks enough like a pit bull, you could run into trouble if you're walking down the street with it and a bylaw control officer happened to see it.”

Update 10/4/2016 This story's headline and introduction have been revised to reflect the fact that a judge placed a hold on the pit bull ban Monday evening.

Liam is Vermont Public’s public safety reporter, focusing on law enforcement, courts and the prison system.
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