Bylaw passed by wide margin despite all-out effort by pit bull advocates
MONTREAL, Quebec, Canada––Acquiring a pit bull is from October 3, 2016 banned in the 19 boroughs of Montreal. Pit bulls already in Montreal must be licensed by the end of 2016. By March 31, 2017, pit bull owners must demonstrate that they have no criminal record and that their pit bulls are sterilized, vaccinated and microchipped.
No one will be allowed to keep more than one pit bull. Pit bulls remaining in Montreal must be on short leashes and muzzled when in public.
Boycott threats fail
The Montreal city legislature on September 27, 2016 approved the new pit bull ordinance by a vote of 37-23. A motion to delay the vote pending further discussion was defeated earlier in the day, 36-22.
The overwhelming support for the pit bull ban came despite intensive effort from mostly U.S.-based pit bull advocates to defeat it, featuring threats to boycott tourism to Montreal. Similar threats have not visibly affected tourism to other Canadian destinations which have long had pit bull bans in effect, including the entire province of Ontario and the city of Winnipeg, Manitoba.
Quebec-wide ban may follow
The Montreal pit bull ban––and the political battle over it––are widely seen as preliminary to consideration of legislation which would ban pit bulls throughout the province of Quebec. About 20% of the Quebec population live in Montreal. At least 10 other Quebec cities already have pit bull bans in effect.
“Two amendments were made to the [Montreal] regulations” before passage, reported Daphne Cameron of La Presse. “In case of death of an owner of a pit bull, the license may be transferred to a spouse or family member. The boroughs of Outremont and Saint-Léonard, which have already long prohibited the possession of pit bulls, will keep their regulations,” as will LaSalle borough, “which prohibits dogs in parks.”
“Victory for human rights & animal welfare”
“This is a remarkable victory for human rights and animal welfare,” human rights and animal welfare advocate Sonia LeClerc told ANIMALS 24-7, “including pit bulls,” who may no longer be bred, bought, sold, and eventually be abandoned to animal shelters in Montreal.
Montreal mayor Denis Coderre’s municipal political party, Équipe Denis Coderre pour Montréal, “did their homework,” LeClerc explained, “by enacting breed-specific legislation,” recognizing the uniquely dangerous aspects of pit bull behavior, “combined with breed-neutral legislation,” applying to all dogs who demonstrate high risk behavior, “and supporting pit bull–specific protection efforts,” directed at stopping pit bull breeding, dumping, and use in dogfighting.
“We all need to work toward these goals. It’s fair, well-balanced, and it’s doable. We all win. I am extremely proud of my people in Québec,” LeClerc finished, after spending most of the summer of 2016 helping to lobby the new Montreal ordinance through to passage.
The voting split largely along party lines, with most members of the majority Équipe Denis Coderre pour Montréal favoring the pit bull ban, while all members of the minority Project Montreal voted against it. Joining the Project Montreal slate in opposition to the pit bull ban were Anjou mayor Luis Miranda and LaSalle mayor Manon Barbe.
The final vote came after two and a half hours of debate among the members of the Montreal legislature, and after three and a half months of intense public discussion triggered by the June 8, 2016 fatal mauling of Christiane Vadnais of Pointe-aux-Trembles, a Montreal borough. Vadnais was killed by a pit bull belonging to neighbor Franklin Junior Frontal.
Opponents of the Montreal pit bull ban including Montreal SPCA director Alana Devine and Humane Society International representative Ewa Demianowicz argued that the pit bull was a “boxer,” based on licensing records, but La Presse investigative reporter Marie-Claude Malboeuf revealed the truth of the matter, as discovered by the police investigation of Vadnais’ death: Frontal registered his pit bull as a boxer to evade an existing and enforced borough ban on pit bulls.
Ironically, the Montreal SPCA on September 7, 2016 might have helped to ensure passage of the Montreal pit bull ban by telling the nine Montreal boroughs and three island suburbs whose animal control dog housing contracts it holds that it will drop the contracts if the communities adopt breed-specific legislation.
Pound contract may revert to previous holder
The SPCA Laurentides-Labelle had recently obliged the city of Ste. Adèle to drop an 18-year-old pit bull ban, as a condition of accepting the Ste. Adéle animal control dog housing control, but the Montreal SPCA position was widely seen as exhibiting arrogant disrespect of the Montreal lawmakers and the public concerns to which they were responding.
The Montreal SPCA had only recently regained the animal control dog housing contracts from most boroughs, after more than 20 years during which pound services were mostly provided by Berger Blanc, a private operator of boarding kennels.
Berger Blanc chief executive Pierre Couture told media that his company stood ready to step back in as needed.
“We will not let the dogs wander in the city and attack the children,” Couture said.
Disrespectful and dismissive attitudes, postures, and sloganeering copied from U.S. campaigns against breed-specific legislation damaged the anti-BSL push in Montreal, where Marie-Claude Malboeuf of La Presse, in particular, repeatedly traced inaccurate and misleading claims back to their sources.
“Opposition councillors argued that science and other attempts have proven breed bans do not work,” summarized Montreal Gazette columnist René Bruemmer, contending that “cities as close as Ottawa and Toronto have either abandoned their bans or are in the process of doing so, because they did not have the means to enforce them, and the rules did not result in a decrease in bites on their territories.”
Ontario & Ottawa
Such contentions were easily disproved, including because the pit bull bans in effect in Ottawa and Toronto were introduced by Ontario provincial legislation in 2005, and could only be abandoned by a change of the provincial laws.
Hard data, meanwhile, clearly demonstrated that the Ontario pit bull ban has been dramatically effective in reducing fatal and disfiguring attacks.
Pointed out Canadian public safety advocate Thomas McCartney, “Ontario has a human population of 13.5 million, with 2.7 million people in Toronto, the largest Ontario city. The U.S. state of Illinois has a human population of 12.8 million, with 2.7 million people in Chicago, the largest Illinois city. Ontario has had no pit bull fatalities since 2005; Illinois has had at least 11.”
Dogs shot to end attacks in Ottawa
In Ottawa, where more than 70% of the dogs designated “dangerous” after attacks since 2005 have been found to be pit bulls kept illegally, police were twice in the seven weeks preceding the Montreal vote obliged to shoot dogs to end attacks on people.
Two of the dogs were pit bulls; the third, a Rottweiler/bull mastiff mix, was shot on September 23, 2016 after escaping from control of a woman who was walking him for her son. The dog raced into a crowded public park, twice biting a man who was trying to protect a baby in his arms. A police officer shot the dog four times after the man fell, dropped the baby, and the dog turned toward the baby.
New Toronto bylaw proposed
In Toronto, meanwhile, “A report recommending changes to the existing Toronto Municipal Code is proposing publicly shaming dog owners whose pups are guilty of biting humans or other pets, requiring them to put a warning sign on their property,” the Toronto Star reported on September 14, 2016. “And the canine itself will also have to wear a dog tag declaring its pariah status.”
“What we’re putting forward (as a definition) for ‘dangerous dog’ is a dog who has severely bitten a person or a domestic animal” even once, Toronto Animal Services manager Elizabeth Glibbery told Toronto Star staff reporters Azzura Lalanis and Jackie Hong.
“Send them to Calgary!”
Following the Montreal defeat, pit bull advocates pledged to undertake a variety of responses, from lawsuits to defiance and civil disobedience. The first response online, however, appeared to be a fundraising appeal on behalf of a scheme to transport 40 to 60 pit bulls from Montreal to Calgary, Alberta, via the U.S. to avoid taking the pit bulls through Ontario.
Calgary has since 2005 had more pit bull attacks than any other city in Canada.