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September 13, 2017

Families of dogs threatened by Montreal’s unfair BSL bylaw granted temporary reprieve

City will grant an extension to more than 500 pet owners in wake of threatening letter

Humane Society International/Canada

  • DemureDragonfly/istock

The City of Montreal is granting an extension to families with dogs affected by its discriminatory dog bylaw. The decision follows a recent court challenge against the municipality over a notice sent to 520 city residents, ordering them to relinquish their dogs due to incomplete permit applications. These people will now be able to apply in the coming months for a special license that will allow them to keep their dogs.

Ewa Demianowicz, campaign manager for Humane Society International/Canada, issued the following statement:

“We are very happy there is hope for the families of these harmless dogs the City has threatened to seize, but we nevertheless cannot forget how problematic, unfair and dangerous this bylaw is. Countless dogs will be condemned as long as this breed ban is in effect. It is unacceptable that the City of Montreal is using innocent dogs as scapegoats for its own failures to protect the public. Not only is the City needlessly tearing families apart by targeting dogs with no history of bad behaviour – it is wasting taxpayers’ money to defend a by-law that was doomed from the start.”

Breed-specific legislation is a dying trend because it is proven to be ineffective, unenforceable, and cost-prohibitive, and results in needless euthanasia. In the United States, 21 states have legislated against breed specific laws and hundreds of municipalities across North America have revoked such restrictions. The city of Châteauguay recently overturned a pit bull ban that had been in place for 30 years.”

To improve public safety, the City of Montreal should apply the Calgary model, where they reduced the rate of incidents with dogs by 78 percent without any breed ban. Instead, our elected officials are shamelessly using fear-mongering and hysteria to target harmless animals.”

Support the efforts of HSI/Canada to prevent cruelty and save lives.


  • 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 10 years of a breed ban in Ontario, rates of dog bites are higher than ever. These laws are costly, cannot be effectively enforced, and unnecessarily harm families, dogs and communities.
  • The Montreal by-law makes it impossible to definitively 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 with 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 last 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, the ban would have targeted 300 to 700 healthy and behaviourally sound dogs had the by-law been in effect in 2016.
  • In April 2017, the Quebec government introduced Bill 128 that would give the government new powers to impose restrictions on certain dogs and their owners, including bans on specific breeds. The proposed legislation specifically targets pit bull type dogs and Rottweilers, as well as crosses of those breeds. The bill has not been yet adopted.

Media Contact: Christopher Paré, 514 395-2914 x 206, cpare@hsi.org