On Tuesday, the Montreal city council voted 37-23 to ban Pit Bulls, endangering the lives of thousands of innocent dogs currently living in shelters. One day later, the Montreal SPCA filed a lawsuit against the city in hopes to block the ban and eventually get it struck down altogether.
The road to a Montreal Pit Bull ban started three months ago, when Christiane Vadnais, 55, was tragically attacked and killed by her neighbor’s dog. Police eventually arrived to shoot and kill the dog, which they described as a Pit Bull.
Except he wasn’t registered as a Pit Bull. He was registered as a Boxer.
Regardless, the mayor of Montreal, Denis Coderre, was determined to do something to make citizens feel safer, so he pushed for a Pit Bull ban. A ban would mean no new Pit Bulls could enter into the city or be adopted from its shelters, and any Pit Bulls already owned would need to be registered as such by the end of the year (a cost of $115), vaccinated, sterilized, and microchipped. These dogs must wear muzzles “at all times,” according to the bylaw as written, and can’t be walked on leashes longer than four feet, never mind visiting dog parks or going off-leash entirely.
Most shocking of all, city animal control officers would have the right to enter your yard or home, sans warrant, to make certain that you’re in compliance with the law. Surely, nothing could go wrong there.
The ban goes into effect October 3rd, giving shelters and rescuers precious few days to transport the many wonderful Pit Bulls under their protection to other rescues in other cities and countries. As you might have guessed, the prospect of having to put down completely healthy and adoptable dogs and didn’t sit too well with the Montreal SPCA, so they threatened in early September to end their dog-control services if the ban were to go through. Now that the ban has been approved, the SPCA has gone one step further and filed a suit against the city.
SPCA animal advocacy director Alanna Devine told The Canadian Press:
What we’re asking as a first step is a judge from Quebec Superior Court suspend the application of the sections of the bylaw that deal with ‘pit bull-type dogs’ in order to eventually have these sections be eventually declared illegal, null and without effect. […]
They treat all pit bull-type dogs as dangerous despite the fact there exists no credible evidence that dogs belonging to this arbitrary looks-based category are inherently dangerous.
The SPCA believes that the Pit Bull ban runs counter to Quebec’s animal-welfare laws, which define animals as “sentient beings.” Other lawsuits by groups opposed to the ban may soon follow.
There are a multitude of reasons Pit Bull bans are ineffective and wrongheaded, on top of the fact that they’re morally objectionable. Here are just a few:
1. Visual identification of Pit Bulls is notoriously inaccurate. A recent study by The Veterinary Journal indicated that a third of dogs labeled as Pit Bulls weren’t Pit Bulls in the slightest, and 20% of dogs that were Pit Bulls were labeled as something else altogether. How many Dogo Argentinos, American Bulldogs, Cane Corsos, Mastiff mixes, Boxer mixes, Terrier mixes, Bulldog mixes, and so on, have been falsely identified as Pit Bulls just because they kind of, sort of look like them? How many dogs who’ve growled or attacked humans have been identified as Pit Bulls merely because people believe that that’s something Pit Bulls do? (Too many.)
2. Dog attack statistics are based almost entirely on often biased and misleading media reports, which seek to sensationalize for the sake of circulation (“Pit Bull Attack” typically gets more clicks than plain old “dog attack”).
3. Pit Bull bans, usually instated, at least in part, for the aforementioned reasons, have never been proven to be successful, and are often, in fact, proven to be unsuccessful. In places where bans have been enacted, like Toronto and Sioux City, IA, the number of dog attacks have since gone up or stayed the same, despite the fact that the Pit Bulls in those cities are almost entirely gone. So who’s doing the “attacking” in their stead? Other dog breeds.
The Pit Bull situation in Montreal is obviously still fluid at the moment and, as the SPCA’s lawsuit and potentially other lawsuits go forward, could change yet again. If you’re interested in helping the Montreal Pit Bulls whose lives are at risk, consider donating to the Montreal SPCA. You can also foster or adopt a Montreal shelter Pit Bull through various rescues, including the Mr. Mo Project.
Featured image via Ijunkate/Instagram