Hundreds of owners of pit bull-type dogs who received letters from the City of Montreal threatening the dogs' seizure will now have extra time to complete their requests to keep their pets.
Prominent Montreal lawyer Anne-France Goldwater was in Quebec Superior Court Monday to ask for an extension of the deadline, originally set for this month.
Justice André Prévost suspended the deadline set out in letters sent to 520 dog owners last month, which gave them a month to get rid of their dogs. The new proposed deadline is Dec. 21, although that date still has to be approved by city council.
Under Montreal's animal control bylaw, the owners of pit bulls and pit bull-type dogs had until March 31 to apply for the special permit they now need to keep their dogs. They had until June 1 to provide all the necessary documents to support their application.
The letter informed owners that while the city had received their application, their file was incomplete.
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It gave owners four weeks to turn over their dog to someone who lives in a municipality that allows pit bulls — or to a shelter — and to fill out a form attesting that the dog is no longer in their possession. If not, the letter said, they could face legal action or the seizure of their pet.
'These people, without exception, were people who were trying to abide by the law that we're challenging.' - Montreal owner Anne-France Goldwater
Goldwater said many of the dog owners who contacted her asking for help in fighting the city's order are law-abiding people who filed their applications on time and paid the $150 fee.
She said they are ordinary people who tried to follow the rules and spent money to purchase muzzles and leashes and on the permit, only to be told their dogs may be seized anyway.
"When I saw that these people, without exception, were people who were trying to abide by the law that we're challenging because they don't want to play politics with the lives of their family dogs, I became panicked and anxious," Goldwater said.
The Montreal Ombudsman's office tweeted a statement, signalling its relief at the city's decision to extend the deadline.
It said the Ombudsman was "rejoicing at the good news!"
Mayor Denis Coderre commented on the deferral, saying, "If it is just a matter of missing some papers, you don't get rid of a dog."
"We need to show that kind of flexibility to accompany the people," he said.