Vowing that the city won't give in to "threats or interest groups," Mayor Denis Coderre has announced Montreal will appeal the suspension of its pit bull ban and restrictions.
In an open letter on his Facebook page and website, Coderre said while the city respects the lives of animals, it will always put its citizens' safety first.
He was disappointed by the ruling, but won't make compromises when it comes to safety. While he is open to making changes to the bylaw, he's not backing down, he said.
"Owning a dog or cat in Montreal is a privilege, not a right. And it comes with obligations," Coderre said.
He said the city sees its approach as a "sensible" solution to the issue of "repeated" pit bull attacks and bites.
The bylaw went into effect Monday and includes a requirement for a special permit for pit bull owners and rules restricting the dog's movement outdoors. Those who fail to follow the rules may eventually be ordered to have their dog euthanized.
It was suspended by a Quebec Superior Court judge on Wednesday pending a court ruling on a legal challenge.
Coderre tries to set record straight
The SPCA, which brought forth the legal challenge, argues that clauses of the bylaw that deal with pit bull-type dogs should be declared null and illegal.
Justice Louis Gouin said Wednesday the bylaw lacked clarity and appeared to have been written too hastily. He said the city did not properly define how to identify a pit bull.
Gouin encouraged the city to "return to the drawing board" and revisit its formulation of sections of the bylaw.
On Radio-Canada's Gravel le matin, Coderre said everything can be improved upon but he believes the city is on solid ground with its legislation.
He pointed to jurisprudence, including the fact that the Supreme Court of Canada upheld Ontario's pit bull ban, as proof.
He said Gouin erred in fact and law when he suspended the bylaw and hit back at his critics, saying it's false to say the city:
- Only targeted pit bulls, when in fact the bylaw includes elements pertaining to dogs, regardless of breed, that have bitten someone or a pet.
- Acted too quickly, when the bylaw went through the usual council approval process.
- Went after dogs but not their owners, when the city is getting tougher on owners who don't register their animals.
Coderre said since the debate began, he has been compared to Adolf Hitler and the Gestapo, and portrayed as someone who will exterminate dogs en masse.
"To the people making photos of me with piles of [dead] dogs, I can assure you if you have a pit bull, you can keep it. But if you're not fit to own a dog, you're going to lose it," he said.
- Pit bull owners dogged by confusion over how to prove a breed
- Do pit bull bans work? Depends how you ask the question
Call for resignation
Opposition Projet Montréal is calling for Anie Samson, the member of Montreal's executive committee responsible for the animal file, to resign.
The group claims Samson and Coderre did not do their homework before introducing the bylaw
"A judge who has the competence and experience to question this law went through it with a fine-toothed comb … and found a million different things in it that don't hold water," said Coun. Sterling Downey.
The party outlined three other instances where proposals or regulations created by the city were overturned on appeal or by a tribunal:
- Bylaw P-6, which set out to ban masked protesters and make it illegal to participate in a demonstration if the route wasn't filed with police.
- A proposal to have bars open until 6 a.m.
- A moratorium on calèches (2-wheeled horse-drawn vehicles).
The SPCA said it does not "fear an appeal" since as far as it is concerned, the decision was well-founded.