Judge continues to hold “pit bull” to be a “breed,” rather than traits common to fighting dogs
MONTREAL, Quebec––Quebec Superior Court Judge Louis Gouin on October 5, 2016 extended his October 3, 2016 delay of enforcement of the newly adopted Montreal ban on pit bulls until such time as all litigation against it is heard and the ban is held to be legal under Quebec and Canadian law.
This could mean a delay of years while lower courts review the multiple cases filed against the Montreal ban by the Montreal SPCA and other pit bull advocates, and the verdicts, whichever way they go, proceed through appeals.
Judge Gouin had already all but ordered the Montreal city council to amend the definition of “pit bull” in the ordinance.
Judge rejected argument based on “common sense”
In so doing, Gouin interpreted “pit bull” to be a “breed,” the traits of which might be extinguished after a specific number of crosses with other breeds, rather than a morphological type, the dangerous characteristics of which might be intensified by out-crosses to enhance traits such as size, speed, and jumping ability.
Montreal city attorney René Cadieux on October 5, 2016 argued unsuccessfully that applications of common sense should be sufficient to ensure fair and effective enforcement of the Montreal bylaw.
Definition in bylaw
Adopted on September 28, 2016 by a vote of 37-23, the bylaw forbids Montrealers from acquiring any new American pit bull terriers, American Staffordshire terriers, bull-Staffordshire terriers, and/or other dogs bred from crosses with the listed breeds, or who have similar morphological characteristics. This is the definition of “pit bull” which has already been upheld by every level of court in Ontario and was accepted on appeal by the Supreme Court of Canada, after Ontario banned pit bulls in 2005.
Pit bulls already in Montreal are allowed to stay, providing that they are licensed, vaccinated, and kept leashed and muzzled when in public places.
In the event of disputes over the identities of individual dogs, provincial or municipal courts could be asked to rule on appeal, Cadieux said.
Accepted all Montreal SPCA arguments
As well as accepting whole the Montreal SPCA argument that the Montreal definition of “pit bull” is too broad, Judge Gouin endorsed the Montreal SPCA contention that the pit bull ban may violate the 2015 Quebec provincial Act on the welfare and safety of animals, the first significant update of Quebec humane law since 1892.
Explained Christiane Desjardins of La Presse, “The law states that animals are not goods, and are endowed with sensitivity and biological imperatives. It is forbidden to cause an animal to be in distress, and obligations in this sense are imposed [upon city ordinances], the judge noted.
Municipal Powers Act
“On the other hand,” Desjardins continued, “Article 63 of the Municipal Powers Act allows a municipality to impound, sell or remove any ‘stray or dangerous’ animal. But Judge Gouin assessed that the Montreal bylaw definitions of ‘pitbull-type dog’ and ‘dog prohibited’ clearly aim at a very broad category of dogs, most of whom are not dangerous, he said, ‘according the true sense of the word.’”
In this regard, Judge Gouin was himself imprecise, since Article 63 of the Municipal Powers Act does not define “dangerous” in any “sense of the word.”
Rather, Article 63 of the Municipal Powers Act leaves the apprehension of what might be considered “dangerous” to local authorities to decide.
Following Judge Gouin’s October 5, 2016 verdict, the Montreal city council has three options: to appeal to a higher court to lift Gouin’s temporary restraining order pending resolution of all lawsuits brought against the pit bull ban, which would be an unlikely approach; to amend or rescind the pit bull ban, according to Gouin’s recommendations; or to hold off on enforcement of the pit bull ban while the further appeals proceed.