Dangerous dogs to be euthanized under proposed Montreal bylaw

As expected, the City of Montreal is going ahead with its plan to ban all new pit bulls from its 19 boroughs by the fall.

City had promised new rules about pit bulls, other dangerous dogs by the fall

The city of Montreal will present the first draft of its promised pit bull and dangerous dog legislation today. (Vancouver Animal Control)

The City of Montreal is going ahead with its plan to ban all new pit bulls from its 19 boroughs by the fall.

The proposed bylaw, which was presented this morning to the executive committee, will also see the city forbid people convicted of violent crimes from owning pit bulls.

It is expected to come into effect Sept. 26.

"A woman died on our territory, and we can't forget about that. We all love animals, but it's up to us as humans, as owners, to better control them in order to ensure other humans' safety isn't jeopardized," said Anie Samson, vice-chair of the city's executive committee and responsible for citizen services.

What does the bylaw say?

The city will define pit bulls as:

  • Staffordshire bull terriers.
  • American pit bull terriers.
  • American Staffordshire terriers.
  • Any mix with these breeds.
  • Any dog that presents characteristics of one of those breeds.

Those who already own one of those kinds of dogs and already live in Montreal will have to acquire a special permit in order to keep their pet.

The bylaw also creates two categories of dogs, which would not apply only to pit bulls: at-risk and dangerous. At-risk dogs are those that exhibit aggressive behaviour, such as biting someone. Dangerous dogs are those that have killed someone or are deemed dangerous by an expert. 

Under the new rules, once a dog is deemed to be dangerous, a euthanasia order will be issued for it.

During the meeting, Mayor Denis Coderre said the city is aiming for a balanced approach that rewards good owners and good pets. He said it isn't going after a specific breed of dog, but rather a type of dog.

"If you conform to the conditions, if you do what you have to and respect the procedure, you can keep your dog," he said.

Members the city's newly expanded dog brigade, as well as city inspectors and police, will be tasked with enforcing the bylaw.

SPCA 'concerned' about city's plan

The Montreal SPCA, which has said on numerous occasions it is against breed-specific legislation because it doesn't work, raised concerns about the plan Wednesday.

The animal shelter and adoption agency said since any new adoption of this type of dog from a shelter would be prohibited, after Sept. 26 any of the banned dogs that come into their care will have nowhere to go.

"Adoptable, healthy and behaviourally sound puppies and dogs that come through the SPCA will be condemned to death," said Alanna Devine, the SPCA's director of animal advocacy.

Pit bulls up for adoption won't have anywhere to go if the proposed bylaw is passed, according to the Montreal SPCA. (Josée Ducharme/Radio-Canada)

And the city's attempts to enforce the rules will be costly: Getting inspectors to determine which dogs are subject to the rules, seizing animals and lawsuits against the city cost money, and Devine points out taxpayers will pay be on the hook for the bill.

Devine said the SPCA is hoping the city will at least discuss with them ways to avoid having to put down animals they say don't deserve to die.

Similar new rules across Quebec

Municipalities across Quebec swiftly introduced similar rules regarding pit bulls or dangerous dogs this summer in response to two highly publicized attacks. Last year, a pit bull bit then-8-year-old Vanessa Biron at a Brossard park, leaving her paralyzed on one side of her face.

And earlier this summer, 55-year-old Christiane Vadnais was mauled in her back yard by a dog originally believed to be a pit bull, but that documents issued by the city and obtained by Humane Society International suggest may have been a boxer.

Following Vadnais's death, the Quebec government convened a panel of experts to create recommendations on how best to deal with pit bulls and other dangerous dogs.

The panel has advised the province not follow Ontario's lead and ban pit bulls outright.

However, that recommendation was marred earlier this week when it was revealed the Quebec Order of Veterinarians, which sits on the panel, used suspect studies to justify its opposition to a pit bull ban.

An advisory panel convened by the province has recommended Quebec not ban pit bulls, but it remains to be seen whether the province will heed that advice. (Ryan Remiorz/Canadian Press)

Premier Philippe Couillard has said the panel's findings would be considered, but that the final decision is up to lawmakers.

Health Minister Gaétan Barrette reiterated his support for a pit bull ban over the weekend while Public Security Minister Martin Coiteux said the possibility of implementing breed-specific legislation hasn't been ruled out.

"It's the question of ensuring public safety, but we're working all together. We're going to have a proposal for a province-wide approach that takes into account what the cities are doing and how we can co-operate even further," Coiteux said.

"We're going to be in a position to announce a position for the whole territory of Quebec very soon."

Coderre said the city didn't want to wait for the province to come up with its rules before acting.