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Montreal suspends controversial pit bull ban, new animal control bylaw in works

The parts of Montreal’s animal control bylaw pertaining to pit bulls and pit bull-type dogs were suspended during an executive committee meeting Wednesday morning.

Pit bull-type dogs now subject to the same rules as all other dogs

The new administration at city hall kept their election promise to suspend the parts of Montreal's animal control bylaw that place restrictions on pit bull ownership. (Elysha Enos/CBC)

Montreal pit bull owners: you can unmuzzle your dogs now.

The city's controversial animal control bylaw has been amended. The parts of the bylaw pertaining to pit bulls and pit bull-type dogs were suspended during an executive committee meeting Wednesday morning.

The year-old bylaw banned the adoption of pit bulls in Montreal and forced owners who already owned such dogs to buy a special permit that costs $150.

The dogs also had to wear a muzzle in public.

Those provisions are no more — instead, pit bulls are subject to the same rules as all other dogs. They must be registered with the city, on a leash no longer than 1.85 metres while in public, and wear a harness or a halter if they weigh 20 kilograms or more.

"In targeting just one race, it created a false sense of security because science ... shows there is no type of dog that is intrinsically more dangerous than others," Coun. Craig Sauvé said. 

"All dogs are dangerous, and the bigger the dog, the more the bite could hurt."

Key election issue

The pit bull ban emerged as a key election issue during Montreal's municipal campaign. Projet Montréal promised to repeal it.

The new administration is in the process of creating a new animal control bylaw it believes will be a step up from the current one, Sauvé said.

The Montreal SPCA, which was against the bylaw from the start, sent out a celebratory tweet Wednesday morning.

Ex-mayor Denis Coderre's administration passed the controversial bylaw in 2016, citing the security of citizens after a Montreal woman was mauled to death in her backyard by a neighbour's dog.

Opposition 'disappointed'

Coderre's former party, which is now called Mouvement Montréal, said it is "disappointed" with the suspension of the bylaw.

Leader Lionel Perez said the city's own data suggests the number of dog bites related to pit bulls accounted for 40 per cent of the total bites reported in 2016 and 2017, even though they represent just three per cent of canines in the city.

Under the previous set of rules, new pit bulls weren't allowed on Montreal territory and those already on the island had to abide by more stringent rules.

"What the administration is doing today is removing the series of additional protections that the bylaw gave Montrealers, particularly the one that required the absence of a criminal record for owners of pit bulls," Perez said.

Separately, Quebec has tabled its own law to ban dangerous dogs but it's unclear whether it will become a dominant issue in the provincial election next October.

With files from Radio-Canada and The Canadian Press