06 October 2016

WELFARE - Judge Suspends Montreal's Pit Bull Ban Pending Hearing

Montreal SPCA’s initial court challenge to the city’s pit bull ban has been successful - the controversial ban has been suspended pending a court hearing on the merits of the case.

In his ruling, Quebec Superior Court Justice Louis Gouin said elements of the bylaw pertaining to the categorization of “pit bull-type dogs” are unclear. For that reason, the temporary suspension he ordered on Monday will remain in effect.

The SPCA argued the law was discriminatory toward dogs that are not dangerous, overly vague in its definition of pit bull-type dogs, and could lead to the euthanasia of hundreds of healthy, well-behaved animals.

"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 states.

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 be dangerous.

"This court has the impression that certain articles of the bylaw were written in haste," Gouin wrote in his judgement.

He encouraged the city to go back and reflect on the definitions and wording between now and when the case is heard.

"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."

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, and regulations that all dogs and cats have a license issued by the city.

When the bylaw was initially passed, there was an immediate outcry against it, so it's no surprise the suspension has resulted in a positive outpouring from organizations and individuals online. 

Many people opposed to the breed ban support legislation based on responsible pet ownership and dangerous dogs by deed rather than breed.

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