Montreal’s controversial pit bull ban is officially on the books after city council passed a bylaw on Tuesday following a heated debate on the issue.
Council voted 37-23 in favour of the bylaw, which includes a ban on new pit bull-type dogs as of next month and restrictions on those currently in the city.
The vote was the culmination of an emotionally-charged debate that has raged for months, with Mayor Denis Coderre insisting the law is balanced and was drafted with safety in mind following several attacks, including one last June that resulted in the death of a 55-year-old woman in her backyard.
Coderre suggested the vast majority of those opposed to the regulation were against it because it banned a specific type of dog.
“We’re balanced enough to say that those who already have a dog will be able to keep them under conditions,” he told council.
Coun. Anie Samson said bans exist in some 900 cities in 40 countries around the world. Some Quebec communities have recently adopted similar bans, while laws are already in force in several large Canadian cities outside the province.
Samson quoted Montreal statistics that suggest pit bull-type dogs accounted for nearly 38 per cent of dog bites in the past 21 months – 137 out of 426 reported cases.
The Quebec government is also considering provincial legislation regarding the dogs.
Detractors say breed-specific legislation has been proven to be ineffective in reducing dog bites and that there is generally a trend away from such bans.
“It’s not the race, the breed of dog that makes it dangerous,” said Projet Montreal’s interim leader Luc Ferrandez, noting that a small fraction of dogs fall into the ‘dangerous’ category.
“And they are not all pit bulls – there are a lot of bad dog owners and some of these people are choosing pit bulls right now, but tomorrow morning they’re going to choose something else.”
Some opposition councillors suggested taking the bylaw back to the drawing board.
“We have an administration that’s moving away from evidence-based policy-making and entering the fray of politics-led evidence-making, which is extremely problematic,” Coun. Guillaume Lavoie said prior to the vote.
The battle isn’t likely to end with Tuesday’s vote.
Opponents of the breed-specific ban have promised legal challenges to the bylaw, which comes into effect Oct. 3.
After that it will be illegal to own any new pit bull-type dog – a list that includes American Staffordshire terriers, Staffordshire bull terriers and American pit bull terriers – or any dogs mixed with those breeds or that bear similar physical characteristics.
Grandfathered dogs must be registered by the end of the year and owners will have to be screened for a criminal record. They must also provide proof the dog has been sterilized, micro-chipped and vaccinated against rabies.
Pit bulls will have to be muzzled outdoors and kept on a short leash with few exceptions.
If owners don’t follow the rules, their dog can be euthanized.