Montreal to overhaul rules on 'dangerous dogs'

The City of Montreal is working to come up with a uniform set of rules regarding “dangerous dogs” across its 19 boroughs but won’t say if it’s leaning toward an all-out ban on certain breeds.

New rules are expected to be in place by 2018

The City of Montreal says its new rules will target dangerous dogs, not just pit bulls. (istock)

The City of Montreal is working to come up with a uniform set of rules regarding "dangerous dogs" across its 19 boroughs but won't say if it's leaning toward an all-out ban on any particular breed.

Right now, certain boroughs have stricter rules than others, while some have barely any regulations. The city's central administration wants to change that.

Councillor Anie Samson is vice-chair of the city's executive committee and is responsible for the animal file. Samson said the city is looking at how to target all dangerous dogs, not just pit bulls, which are often singled out in the debate over potentially dangerous animals.

Samson said she wants to make it illegal for any animal to be outside without a collar. 

It is unclear what qualifies as a dangerous dog. However, pit bulls are often singled out as they are more likely to initiate unprovoked attacks, and they inflict the most serious wounds.

A recent report by La Presse found last summer, at least 20 children were the victims of dog attacks in the Montreal region – most often by pit bulls. 

Expert panel

Samson said the city has assembled a panel of experts, asking the panel to determine how best to manage dangerous and abandoned dogs and their owners. It will look at how other big cities have handled the dangerous dog issue.

Nothing has been ruled out – including a ban, she said. However, Samson cautioned, Ontario banned pit bulls more than a decade ago, but statistics show dog bites in Toronto have increased.

Councillor Anie Samson cautioned a ban on pit bulls may not be as effective as people may hope. (Natalie Nanowski/CBC)

Samson said she isn't convinced a ban is the answer to lowering bites and wants to focus more on educating the population and on targeting pet owners who don't abide by the new rules — a strategy some animal experts agree with.

"Dangerous dogs come in all shapes and sizes — some are tiny, some are large. But what is not going to be helpful is if we focus on a breed. Let us focus on [an] individual animal's behaviour," said Nicholas Gilman, executive director of the Montreal SPCA.

Veterinarian Michel Pépin says measures such as ensuring dogs wear tags, obliging some breeds to wear muzzles and introducing annual behaviour tests for dogs and owners would keep people safer than implementing bans.

The city will also open a shelter for dogs and cats governed by the city's rules but run by an independent organization. 

The project was announced in 2014 and will be big enough to accommodate thousands of animals.

Both the shelter and new rules are expected to be in place by 2018.

with files from Natalie Nanowski