Confusion, anger over Montreal's handling of pit bull permits

Confusion abounds over a form letter the City of Montreal is sending to pit bull owners, informing them that their applications for the special permit required to keep their dogs are incomplete.

Form letter from city threatens legal action and seizure of dog

Thomas Pavia poses with his 10-year-old pitbull, Ezec. The city sent him a letter saying his application for a special permit to keep the dog is incomplete, which he says is impossible because he was already issued the permit. (Sean Henry/CBC)

Confusion abounds over a form letter the City of Montreal is sending to hundreds pit bull owners, informing them that their applications for the special permit required to keep their dogs are incomplete.

The letters say while they have received the person's application, the file is incomplete. It is unclear when they started being sent out.

[The city] gave me the licence, I have the tag and I have the permit, and now you want to keep my dog after you took my money?- Pit bull owner Thomas Pavia

Under the bylaw, pit bull owners had until March 31 to apply for the permit and until June 1 to provide all the necessary documents to support their application.

The letter says the city is giving owners four weeks to give the 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 the person's possession. No contact information is provided.

It threatens legal action and the seizure of the dog if they do not adhere to the requirements.

City gave no warning, says SPCA

Sophie Gaillard, a lawyer with the Montreal SPCA's animal advocacy department, said they're expecting a lot of calls from people who don't know what to do.

She's not sure the shelter will be able to handle an influx of dogs, if it comes to that.

Gaillard said while the SPCA's relationship with the city is tense, they are still providing services to certain boroughs that are not related to the city's breed-specific legislation, which went into effect last December.

"We should have been warned or given some kind of heads up before these letters came out," she said.

In an emailed statement, city spokesperson Gonzalo Nunez said the letters were sent out after a "rigorous analysis" of each file.

He said before sending the letters, city employees contacted those affected and let them know what information was missing from their applications.

Those who believe they mistakenly received the letter can contact with the city and indicate what they think the error is, he said.

The city ombudsman's office released a statement Thursday, saying it has received several complaints about the letter. The office says it can't change city rules, but it can see that they are applied fairly.

'I tried to be honest'

Thomas Pavia lives in Saint-Henri with his 10-year-old pitbull, Ezec.

Last fall, when the bylaw was first announced, he brought in all the papers he was told were needed to get the special permit, filled out the forms and paid the $150 fee.

He was told the city didn't know when the bylaw would actually come into effect, so his money was refunded. Once it came into effect last December, he had to redo his application.
Thomas Pavia has owned his dog Ezec for 10 years. (CBC)

He received the tag for his dog this winter. So when he received the letter from the city earlier this week, he was confused. And angry.

"My dog has arthritis now, he cannot run like crazy, he never bites anybody, so I'm really pissed off because I followed the rules and I tried to be honest," he said.

Pavia said he's not sure if he mistakenly received the letter, but he isn't planning on reaching out to the city to clarify. He said the process to get the permit was frustrating and he's not interested in dealing with the city anymore.

"The question is what are they going to do? You gave me the licence, I have the tag and I have the permit, and now you want to keep my dog after you took my money?"

He said he will go to court if he has to.

Quebec-wide ban?

Earlier this week, politicians in the South Shore municipality of Châteauguay voted to scrap its pit bull ban and focus instead on dangerous dogs.

Mayor Nathalie Simon said the ban was overturned after nearly 30 years because it was difficult to enforce.

"It was not working at all," she told CBC Montreal's Daybreak. "We were in front of the judge and in court all the time, we were losing.

"And on top of that it's nonsense for us to just target a breed."

Public Security Minister Martin Coiteux tabled the province's dangerous dog legislation in April, after months of delays. 
Montreal's bylaw has been the subject of protest, including one held last fall in front of City Hall. (Paul Chiasson/Canadian Press)

The proposed law, Bill 128, is the beginning of what Coiteux called a "gradual" approach to legislating dangerous dogs.

His plan, he said at the time, is to eventually ban pit bulls across the province.

On Thursday, in response to questions about Châteauguay's decision to ditch its pit bull ban, Coiteux said the government is trying to establish a base of the required rules and regulations throughout the province, but that the cities will implement their own specific rules and have their own regulations.

Coiteux's bill has not yet been adopted — it still has to go through consultation period and the committee stage, where it will be studied.

With files from Sean Henry, Antoni Nerestant and CBC Montreal's Daybreak


To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.

Become a CBC Member

Join the conversation  Create account

Already have an account?