Judge extends suspension of Montreal pit bull ban

A Quebec Superior Court judge has extended a suspension of Montreal's ban and restrictions on pit bulls until there is a final court ruling in the SPCA's legal challenge of the bylaw.

Mandatory muzzles, ban on new pit bulls will not be enforced until there is final ruling on bylaw challenge

Poutine the pit bull is being fostered in Regina. She was in danger of being euthanized as a result of Montreal's new pit bull bylaw. (CBC)

A Quebec Superior Court judge has extended a suspension of Montreal's ban on pit bull-type dogs until there is a final court ruling on the SPCA's legal challenge of the bylaw.

The SPCA is arguing that clauses of the new animal control bylaw dealing with pit bull-type dogs should be declared null and illegal. 

Restrictions aimed at pit bull-type dogs, including a prohibition on adopting them and a requirement that they be muzzled when outdoors, will not be enforced until the SPCA's challenge is heard by the courts and a final decision is rendered.

Other provisions of the new animal control bylaw remain in effect, such as the requirement that all dogs weighing more than 20 kilograms, regardless of breed, wear a halter or harness.

Bylaw definition 'vague, imprecise'

In Justice Louis Gouin's decision, he found the provisions dealing with pit bull-type dogs raise numerous red flags and merit further review.

This court has the impression that certain articles of the bylaw were written in haste.- Justice Louis Gouin

​Gouin said the definition of the term "pit bull-type dog" is vague and imprecise and needs to be clarified. 

"The challenge is to establish the limits of the very elastic definition of 'pit bull-type dog' and the court notes that, during the hearings, even the city has been unable to define those limits," the decision reads. 

Gouin also questioned whether the City of Montreal has the right to order the seizure and euthanizing of pit bull-type dogs that may not, in fact, be dangerous. 

"This court has the impression that certain articles of the bylaw were written in haste," his judgment reads.

Gouin encouraged the city to "return to the drawing board" and revisit its formulation of sections of the bylaw.

The Montreal SPCA welcomed Gouin's decision, which it said could be in effect for months. 

"The fight is far from being over, but we are very pleased with this first victory," SPCA lawyer Sophie Gaillard said in a news release.

"We are particularly delighted to be able to continue finding adoptive homes for all our healthy and behaviorally sound dogs, regardless of their physical appearance."

The decision extends Monday's temporary suspension that Gouin had placed on the provisions of the new animal control bylaw

Representing the Montreal SPCA in court is Marie-Claude St-Amant (left) and Sibel Ataogul (right). Sophie Gaillard (centre) is a member of the SPCA's animal advocacy team. (Jaela Bernstien/CBC)

In court on Monday, Montreal SPCA lawyers Sibel Ataogul and Marie-Claude St-Amant argued that the new animal control bylaw poorly defines "pit bull-type dog" and contravenes the rights of Quebecers because it allows any "competent authority" to enter a home without a warrant.

It's like pornography. You know it when you see it.- René Cadieux, lawyer for Montreal, on how to tell what's a pit bull-type dog

René Cadieux, the lawyer representing the City of Montreal at the hearing, defended the bylaw's vague definition of pit bulls, arguing that it's difficult to pin down the exact characteristics of the breed.

He told the court, "It's like pornography. You know it when you see it."

'Choice for safety'

Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre said Wednesday afternoon that the court challenge doesn't mean the bylaw is flawed. 

"If you study and consult jurisprudence, nothing changes," he said. 

"We made a choice for safety, but we made a balanced choice. People who want to keep their dogs can keep them.

"We didn't move too fast."

Projet Montréal city councillor Sterling Downey has been a vocal critic of the bylaw and said Wednesday that he was "very happy" with the ruling. 

"Right now we're penalizing good owners, dogs that have never shown signs of aggressiveness, and we're basically saying they're aggressive animals without any proof," Downey said. 

"It's unacceptable."


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