Châteauguay to replace 'hard to apply' pit bull ban with dangerous dog bylaw

Two years after announcing it would be moving away from its pit bull ban, the City of Châteauguay is set to replace it with a ban on dangerous animals.

City's breed-specific legislation produced more losses in court than wins, says mayor Nathalie Simon

The Montreal SPCA has transferred more than 20 pit bull-type dogs, including these two, to shelters outside the city since Montreal introduced breed-specific legislation targeting pit bulls last year. (Humane Society of Chittenden County)

Two years after announcing it would be moving away from its pit bull ban, the City of Châteauguay on Montreal's South Shore is set to replace it with a ban on dangerous animals.

The proposed bylaw targets all animals that are or could be dangerous, including dogs, cats, exotic animals such as reptiles, amphibians and spiders, and even wild animals.

The new rules could be adopted at the next city council meeting on Aug. 21.

Châteauguay agreed to review its nearly 30-year-old breed-specific ban in 2015, after receiving a petition signed by more than 2,100 people.

Châteauguay Mayor Nathalie Simon said the city is moving away from breed-specific legislation because 'it's hard to apply.' (City of Châteauguay)
Since Christiane Vadnais was mauled to death in her Montreal backyard last year by a dog which the coroner described as a pit bull last year, breed-specific legislation has been a hot topic.

However, as evidenced by a bylaw passed by the City of Montreal, and a proposed law introduced by the province earlier this year, the move has generally been toward implementing some form of breed-specific legislation, not eliminating it.

Châteauguay Mayor Nathalie Simon said the decision to move away from breed-specific legislation was influenced by the city's experiences trying to enforce a pit bull ban.

"It's hard to apply," she said. "We've faced that for 30 years — when it comes to banning a dog, it's more often a loss than a win [when challenged in court]."

Asked about the possibility of Quebec adopting a province-wide ban on pit bull-type dogs, Simon said they've shared Châteauguay's experiences with the government in the hopes of helping it avoid similar trouble.

However, she said Châteauguay will not defy a provincial ban if one is introduced.

New rules focus on owners, dangerousness

Rather that targeting specific breeds, Châteauguay's proposed bylaw puts the focus instead on dog owners and the dangerousness of a dog.

It creates three levels of dangerousness:

Level 1 is for animals that are growling, showing signs of being threatening or wanting to attack a person, animal or thing, or making an aggressive gesture.

Owners of animals that fall under this category will be fined at least $400. Repeat offenders may be fined up to $800, forced to attend courses on how to control the animal, have their animal confined or be forced to put a muzzle on it in public.

Level 2 is for animals that assault a person, other animal or object, resulting in injuries, damages and other trauma.

Owners of animals that fall under this category face fines of at least $600 and will have to take the aforementioned courses. The animal may be ordered to be confined and/or undergo a behavioural analysis, the animal may be banned from being in public or forced to wear a muzzle. Repeat offenders may be fined up to $1,200 and have their animal euthanized.

Level 3 is for animals that assault a person, other animal or object, to the point where they are no longer controllable, causing trauma and hospitalization.

In these cases, police officers are authorized to use any means necessary to stop the attack, including killing the animal. If it can be subdued, it will be subject to behavioural testing in order to determine whether the dog can return to its owner, or if it must be euthanized. The owner will also be subject to fines of between $800 and $1,600.

With files from Homerun