Projet Montréal vows to vote against pit bull bylaw

Lawyers launch coalition against city’s proposed pit bull legislation

Projet Montréal says many cities are stepping away from breed-specific bylaws, which it says are ineffective and difficult to enforce. (Natalie Nanowski/CBC)

The Opposition Projet Montréal says it will vote against a controversial proposed bylaw targeting pit bull-type dogs when it comes before municipal council next Monday.

Sterling Downey, Projet Montréal’s spokesman on animal control issues, condemned Wednesday what he said is the city administration’s refusal to open the debate over the new rule to public and expert participation. Dog on dog attack lawyer – this kind of thing is not a problem for us.

“This file can’t be decided in the mayor’s office,” Downey said in a news release.

“Montrealers should have the right to express themselves, and so should experts — and there are many who have expressed doubts about this rule in recent weeks,” he said.

The proposed bylaw was drafted after a string of attacks, including the June death of Christiane Vadnais, a 55-year-old woman who was mauled to death in the backyard of her east-end Montreal home.

The proposed bylaw would prohibit:

  • Dangerous dogs;
  • Pit bull-type dogs and other dangerous breeds, if their owners don’t have a special permit;
  • Unsterilized dogs, and dogs without microchips starting Dec. 31, 2019.

The city will define pit bulls as Staffordshire bull terriers, American pit bull terriers, American Staffordshire terriers, any mix with these breeds, and 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.

All 19 Montreal boroughs will have to comply with the new rules, should municipal council vote to adopt them Monday.

Current rules need clarification, enforcement

 Luc Ferrandez, Projet Montréal’s interim leader, said breed-specific rules avoid the real problem when it comes to dog bites and attacks — a lack of enforcement of existing rules.

“Hundreds of dogs are walking off leash and without a registration tag. And if a dog bites, the borough, the SPCA and the police don’t know what to do,” Ferrandez said.

Rather than a new rule, Ferrandez said the existing protocols should be clarified and more resources dedicated to enforcing them.

Downey said the new rule will be ineffective and flies in the face of current evidence-based research.

“Cities that have adopted breed-specific rules are now stepping back from them. By banning specific breeds, Denis Coderre is once again going against the latest trends and best practices.”​

New coalition opposes bylaw

The campaign against the proposed bylaw also received the support of a new coalition led by lawyers Geneviève and Julius Grey and Sabrina Sabbah Wednesday.

Called la Coalition pour la promotion de la sécurité des personnes et des chiens, the coalition brings together lawyers and experts in animal behaviour opposed to the proposed ban.

“I don’t understand why, contrary to all veterinary reports, [the City of Montreal] persists with its view that rules favouring the banning of certain breeds work,” Julius Grey told Radio-Canada.

He said Montreal should instead work harder to enforce its existing animal control rules.

The coalition says it is ready to launch a court challenge on behalf of the many people who have contacted them, if city council votes to approve the bylaw Monday night.

Police back away from pit bull claim

Wednesday also saw a Montreal police spokesman deny reports from the day Christiane Vadnais died that cited a police source saying the dog found with her body was a pit bull. 

Police spokesman Daniel Lacoursière told Radio-Canada officers are not in a position to identify the breed of a dog. 

“We’re not dog experts. We have no qualifications for saying if a dog is a pit bull,” he said. 

The dog had been registered with the Anjou borough as a boxer, but the City of Montreal has requested a DNA test to confirm the breed. 

The results of those tests have not been released.