Citizen outcry prompts Candiac to ban new pit bulls

Candiac has announced its intention to update its animal control bylaw to ban the licensing of new pit bulls and place restrictions on ones that already live there.

Town was among 5 on South Shore that lifted its breed-specific ban in April

One of Candiac's proposed new rules will force all pit bull owners to muzzle their dogs in public. (CBC)

Two months after the South Shore town lifted its pit bull ban, Candiac has announced its intention to update its animal control bylaw to ban the licensing of new pit bulls and place restrictions on ones that already live there.

Under the new rules, which have yet to be officially adopted, current pit bull owners would have to get their dogs registered and licensed by July 31. 

But starting Aug. 1, the town will stop issuing licences to pit bulls.

The suspension of licences for pit bulls is temporary, said the town's director of communications Jacinthe Lauzon. It will be in place until Quebec finishes its province-wide review and may change, depending on the province's decision.

Lauzon said she doesn't believe the move sends mixed messages to citizens.

"We just want to make sure we don't have any new dogs in the town until there's a decision [from the province]," she said.

Banning dangerous dogs vs. pit bulls

In April, after two years of research and work by municipal clerks, Saint-Constant, Sainte-Catherine, Candiac, Saint-Philippe and Saint-Mathieu adopted a new intermunicipal bylaw focusing on dangerous dogs instead of specific breeds of dogs.

"A poodle can be aggressive. We have to make sure authorities can intervene quickly and don't get hung up on identifying a dog's breed before they can act," Lauzon said.

The bylaw defines dangerous dogs as dogs that:

  • Bite, try to bite, attack or try to attack a person or another animal.
  • While off their owner's property, manifest aggression towards a person or an animal by snarling, growling, showing its teeth, barking ferociously or acting in any way that suggests the dog may bite or attack.

But following the death of a woman in her Pointe-aux-Trembles backyard last week, Candiac started receiving calls from citizens worried about the presence of pit bulls and other big dogs in their town, Lauzon said.

At a regularly scheduled meeting Monday evening, the town's elected officials decided to change the bylaw as it pertains to Candiac.

In addition to the licensing rules, dogs that weigh at least 20 kilograms will have to wear a halter in public and pit bulls, regardless of their size, will have to wear muzzles in public.

A halter helps a dog owner control the direction of the dog's head. (cynoclub/iStock)

The regional police force will be tasked with enforcing the bylaw. In some cases, dogs deemed to be dangerous may be taken to local pounds, but it's still unclear what the consequences will be for owners, Lauzon said.

Focus on prevention, not reaction: SPCA

Alanna Devine, director of animal welfare at the Montreal SPCA, said that though the town was going in the right direction when it implemented the bylaw targeting behaviour and not breed, the measures are still reactionary.

The bylaw targets dangerous dogs once they start displaying dangerous behaviours, instead of trying to prevent the dogs from becoming dangerous in the first place, she said.

The SPCA has said sterilization, socialization and regulation of who can own dogs are among the most important ways of keeping dogs from becoming threatening.

"I think that component is being left out of a lot of discussions," she said.

She said implementing breed bans and other reactionary measures are fear-based reactions, not fact-based ones.

"I certainly understand, politicians are under pressure and they want to do something, but they need to make sure the legislation they're putting in place is actually going to accomplish what it is they want to do, which is make communities safer."