Saskatchewan becoming a safe haven for Montreal's banned pit bulls

Saskatchewan dog lovers are saving the lives of a number of pit bulls from Montreal who were in danger of being euthanized.

Sask. rescue has taken in 10 pit bulls in the last month

Poutine is being fostered in Regina. She was in danger of being put to sleep thanks to Montreal's new pit bull bylaw. (CBC)

Saskatchewan dog lovers are saving the lives of a number of pit bulls from Montreal who were in danger of being euthanized.

Montreal's new animal control ban goes into effect on Monday. Earlier this week, city council voted to ban new ownership of pit bulls and pit-bull type dogs. The city's SPCA has challenged the new law and a judicial review is scheduled for Monday.

Two Saskatchewan dog rescues have been stepping up for the past few months to save Montreal's pit bulls.

Prairie Sky Dog Rescue in Regina and Prairie Pooches Rescue in Cando, Sask. had pit bulls arrive on a WestJet flight from Montreal on Thursday night.

Both dogs, Poutine and Athos, have survived traumatic experiences.

Neglected in a home with 14 dogs

Poutine is a three-year-old pit bull cross. She is being fostered by Kayla Balderson Burak and her husband Mike in Regina.

"She came from a house with 14 other dogs. They were only allowed to go to the bathroom on the balcony. She's malnourished, underweight and likely not exercised," said Balderson Burak.

Poutine has not had a lot of experience outside, with treats and even toys according to the Buraks. (CBC)

The Burak's fostered a pit bull named Black for five weeks and recently adopted him to a couple in Chestemere, Alta.

"Any pit bull in a rescue or shelter with this bylaw is supposed to be euthanized. Every dog deserves a second chance. These dogs are loyal compassionate and sensitive just like every other breed of dog.

"It's important to remember every dog, regardless of size, has the potential to be dangerous. Yes, these big muscular dogs seem more physically threatening and absolutely sometimes they are depending on how they were raised."

Balderson Burak said discriminating against a dog based on how it looks or a perception is just as dangerous as doing the same thing to a person or particular race.

"The Regina SPCA has been quite outspoken about breed specific legislation not working. Regina does have good bylaws in place for dangerous dogs that don't target a specific physical appearance. It is a welcoming, respectful community to bring these dogs into," said Balderson Burak.

At adoption time, the Burak's have a say in who takes their fostered pit bull. The couple said they have the right to refuse an applicant.

Throat slashed and left for dead in the woods 

Poutine was joined on the flight to Saskatchewan with Athos, another Montreal pit bull.

Brilyn Jiricka is the president of Prairie Pooches, she found a Saskatchewan foster home for Athos.

"He was found in the woods in Montreal, he was badly abused and actually had his throat slashed," said Jiricka.

This is Athos after he was rescued in Montreal. The dog was found in the woods with his throat slashed. (Carolyne Métayer Dallaire (Facebook) )

"He's done very well. He's made a very good recovery."

Jiricka said the foster owner hopes to adopt Athos if it's approved by the rescue following a review period.

Athos has now recovered from his injuries and is with a foster owner in Saskatoon. (Brilyn Jiricka (Facebook))

The recent attention of Montreal's ban has generated a lot of interest in fostering and adopting in Saskatchewan, according to Jiricka.

"It's been very overwhelming the last 48 hours. I have more messages and emails than I can even process. ​It's very busy. We can only take in what we have room for in foster homes," Jiricka said.

Saskatchewan dog lovers stepping up

Some Saskatchewan communities have breed specific bans which Jiricka said can make it hard to find foster owners and people for adoptions.

"Our larger centres I find are more pit-bull friendly. Saskatoon, Regina, North Battleford, Prince Albert those areas are really good. We have a lot of success adopting to them but our challenge is our small towns," Jiricka said.

Prairie Pooches has taken in 20 pit bulls this year from Montreal alone, including 10 in the last month. They have been taking dogs from Ontario for years because of bans there. 

Flying pit bulls

The dogs in most cases are flown on WestJet, which is the only airline that will take pit bull type breeds.

The rescues try and pair up someone coming to Saskatchewan with a dog, in that case the cost for luggage is $85. If they cannot and the dog has to travel cargo, the cost balloons to $350 to $420. 

Jiricka said the rescue has been covering those costs. One Last Chance Animal Rescue in Montreal has set up a GoFundMe page taking donations, which covered the flight costs for both Athos and Poutine.

"The biggest misconception is pit bull mixed looking dog is aggressive. Every dog is different, every breed is different. It really depends on how they are raised and how they are socialized."

When it comes to adoptions, Jiricka said all dogs go through a health check before they come to Saskatchewan and are spayed or neutered after arrival. She said every potential owner has to go through a process which includes a home visit before they are approved for adoption.


Adam Hunter


Adam Hunter is the provincial affairs reporter at CBC Saskatchewan, based in Regina. He has been with CBC for 13 years. He hosts the CBC podcast On the Ledge. Follow him on Twitter @AHiddyCBC. Contact him:


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