December 1, 2016
Decision to reinstate discriminatory dog bylaw strongly condemned
Judge's ruling on appeal flies in the face of common sense, science
Humane Society International/Canada is deeply saddened and disappointed by a judge’s decision to reinstate a divisive and discriminatory dog bylaw after its suspension was appealed – at taxpayers' expense – by the City of Montreal.
Under the bylaw, pit bull-type dogs are prohibited, and those who already have dogs who look like pit bull-types would have to get a special license pending criminal background checks, and would be required to muzzle their dogs in public and keep them on a four-foot leash at all times. Many animals in shelters could die as a result of the discriminatory by-law. Although the by-law targeting pit bull-type dogs is now in effect following the success of the suspension appeal, the Quebec superior court is in the process of conducting an in-depth analysis on the validity of the by-law and will reach a final decision in the coming months that could result in the bylaw being struck down or amended. Ewa Demianowicz, campaign manager for HSI/Canada, stated:
“While we are disappointed by the decision to reinstate the discriminatory bylaw, we hope that the ongoing court case will invalidate it for good. Our elected officials are using fear-mongering and hysteria to target harmless animals. If you look at the science, breed-specific legislation does nothing to make communities safer, and causes immense hardship to animals and people. It is for this reason that BSL has been outlawed in 20 U.S. States and revoked by hundreds of municipalities.”
- There is no evidence that breed-specific laws reduce dog bites or attacks on people and no jurisdiction has been able to prove that this kind of legislation has improved public safety. After more than ten years of a breed ban in Ontario, rates of dog bites are higher than they have ever been. These laws are costly, cannot be effectively enforced, and unnecessarily harm families, dogs and communities.
- In the U.S., 20 states have prohibited breed specific legislation because it is scientifically baseless, cost prohibitive to enforce, and causes significant hardship to dogs and people.
- The Montreal by-law makes it impossible to definitely identify a pit bull type dog, meaning all large dogs have been at risk of being seized and euthanized at the discretion of by-law officers. The by-law bans any new Staffordshire bull terriers, American pit bull terriers, American Staffordshire terriers, any dog mixed with these breeds, or any dog who presents characteristics of one of those breeds. However, the city has still not been able to tell citizens how to identify if their dog presents “physical characteristics” of pit bull type dogs, nor how to contest their dog’s classification as a pit bull if they disagree with it.
- The dog involved in the death of a woman in Montreal earlier this year was registered with the city as a boxer. The dog had been aggressive in at least two other situations and the city failed to take action under its existing by-laws.
- The best way to prevent dog bites is through proactive outreach across all sectors in the community. The Canadian Veterinary Medical Association and the Ordre des médecins vétérinaires du Québec have clear position statements that do not support breed specific legislation.
- Experts have consistently found that no one breed is more likely to bite than another. Factors that are scientifically linked to aggression in dogs include neglect, abuse and leaving animals unsterilized; effective public safety legislation focuses on these areas instead of ineffective and harmful breed bans.
- In the past 30 years, six individuals have been killed by dogs in Quebec. Of the eight dogs involved in these deaths, seven were husky type dogs and the breed of the dog involved in the death of a Montreal woman in 2016 has not been conclusively determined. Notably, breed specific legislation rarely targets breeds other than pit bull type dogs.
- The Montreal SPCA has estimated that, at their shelter alone, between 300 to 700 healthy and behaviourally sound dogs would have been targeted by the ban had the by-law been in effect in 2016.
- Quebec is currently drafting a bill aimed at addressing dog bites and attacks. HSI is working to stop Quebec from repeating Montreal's mistake. The public can help HSI stop BSL in the province of Quebec by visiting hsicanada.ca/bsl
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