No decision in Montreal's request to appeal pit bull ban suspension

The Court of Appeal of Quebec will rule in the coming days on the City of Montreal's request to appeal a court-ordered suspension of its controversial new rules on pit bull-type dogs.

City offers to hold off on euthanasia orders until court rules on SPCA-led legal challenge of bylaw

A Quebec Superior Court judge suspended provisions of Montreal's new animal control bylaw concerning pit bull-type dogs, pending the outcome of an SPCA-led legal challenge. (Shaun Malley/CBC)

The Court of Appeal of Quebec will rule in the coming days on the City of Montreal's request to appeal a court-ordered suspension of its controversial new rules on pit bull-type dogs.

Lawyers for the City of Montreal and the Montreal SPCA, which wants the bylaw's sections on pit bull-type dogs ruled illegal, presented their arguments before the province's highest court Friday morning.

In its arguments for repealing the suspension, the City of Montreal said it would guarantee that no pit bulls would be euthanized over the months it could take the courts to rule on the SPCA's legal challenge of the bylaw.

City lawyers also said Montreal would be willing to allow owners of pit bull-type dogs picked up as strays during this period to reclaim their animals, despite a new rule to the contrary. 

The city argues, however, that owners of pit bull-type dogs should still be required to obey the bylaw's other new rules:

  • muzzling their animals at all times when they're outside.
  • keeping their dogs on a leash that's no longer than 1.25 metres, except in a fenced dog park.
  • Ensuring the animal is supervised when outside by someone 18 or older.
  • obtaining a special city-issued licence for their dog.

City's offer surprise to SPCA

Montreal's offer to compromise on key aspects of the bylaw – euthanasia orders and reclaiming stray pit bulls –  took SPCA lawyers by surprise. Lawyer Sophie Gaillard said the organization has been trying in vain to discuss options with the city.

"They've refused to negotiate," said Gaillard.

She said the city needs to go further and grant the SPCA the right to find homes for healthy, behaviourally sound pit bull-type dogs seized under the new rules.

Under the bylaw, new adoptions of prohibited breeds are not permitted.

Gaillard said that stipulation will lead to overcrowding at the SPCA's facility and needs to be changed.

"We can't house dogs forever. They have to leave our building one way or another, and our way of doing that is adoption," she said.

Ultimately, the SPCA wants the city to step away from breed-specific legislation, or at the very least, clarify definitions so there's no doubt about what qualifies as a pit bull-type dog.

Justice Manon Savard asked the opposing lawyers to sit down together and try to work out a deal.

She did not give a time frame for her decision on the City of Montreal's appeal request.

Bylaw language 'vague'

Last week, Superior Court Justice Louis Gouin sided with the SPCA and co-plaintiff Odette Lours in their request for a suspension of those sections of the bylaw concerning 'pit bull-type dogs,' ruling that the bylaw's language was "vague" and "imprecise" and in need of clarification.

In its request to appeal, the City of Montreal said concerns raised by the SPCA and Lours are not exceptional nor serious enough to merit the suspension of new rules approved by "Montreal's elected representatives."

The city contends that the suspension puts private interests ahead of the public interest, contrary to jurisprudence, and it claims Gouin's ruling did not take the public interest into account.

If the suspension is not lifted, the public interest will suffer "patent, major, and irreparable harm," the request says.