New legislation would ban pit bulls, force euthanasia of dogs deemed ‘dangerous’

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A controversial ruling in Montreal has some dog owners outraged.

The legislation, which goes into effect October 3rd would ban people from adopting pit bulls and impose a series of rules on those who already own them.

Mayor Denis Coderre told CTV, “When 38 percent of all bites are coming from pit bulls there is a situation here.”

The bylaw creates two categories of dogs, which would apply to all breeds: 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 the animal.

The city bylaw defines 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 currently live in Montreal and already own one of those kinds of dogs now have to acquire a special permit in order to keep their pets.

An amendment was made to the bylaw on Tuesday to address concerns that a pit bull would be automatically euthanized when its owner dies. The change allows a dog’s license to be transferred to another person who was living at the same address, a direct family member or a spouse.

Some of the proposals include keeping the dogs muzzled and on a short leash in public and a criminal background check for owners. Punishment for breaking the rules could lead to an order to euthanize the dog. But enforcing those rules has another hurdle, veterinarians say they have no obligation to put down healthy animals.

Veterinarian Judith Weissman said, “Euthanasia was not intended for those dogs and the professional responsibility we have was not intended for this situation.”

The debate is emotional and has been raging since June when a Montreal woman was mauled to death in her own backyard by a neighbor’s dog.

Other jurisdictions have brought in bans including Ontario which brought in its legislation in 2005.  Other Canadian cities also imposed a ban including Winnipeg. But banning a breed is the wrong solution say protesters, arguing that these are generally good dogs that can go wrong with bad owners and that is the behavior that needs to be controlled.

Montreal’s SPCA is taking legal action against the new bylaw saying sections of it are illegal because of discrimination against owners, the vague definition of the breed, and lack of credible evidence that they are inherently dangerous.