Montreal suspends pit bull ban, will consult before reworking bylaw next year
Sidhartha Banerjee, The Canadian Press
Published Wednesday, December 20, 2017 11:48AM EST
Last Updated Wednesday, December 20, 2017 2:26PM EST
MONTREAL -- Pit bulls are once again allowed in Montreal as the Projet Montreal administration follows through with an election promise to do away with the controversial bylaw that banned them.
Coun. Craig Sauve, the executive committee member in charge of animal services, said Wednesday the ban will be suspended, as will several specific sections of the city's animal control bylaw pertaining to the breed such as mandatory muzzling and special permits.
"The pit bull-style dog will no longer be considered a dangerous breed in Montreal," Sauve said. "We'll have a global approach that includes all dogs and I believe it's the right approach for Montreal."
A new bylaw will be introduced in the first half of 2018 after extensive consultation.
All current dangerous dog provisions for animals that bite remain intact, minus the elements of breed-specific legislation which "discriminate against owners who have been good owners," he said.
Sauve said the city will consult scientific and animal-behaviour experts as well as dog-owners and people who don't have dogs.
Projet Montreal has said the breed-specific nature of the previous bylaw was based on bad science and that it would proceed with a more humane one focusing on dog-owners and education.
Ex-mayor Denis Coderre's administration passed the controversial bylaw in 2016 and cited the security of citizens after a Montreal woman was mauled to death in her backyard by a neighbour's dog.
Coderre's party, which is now called Mouvement Montreal, said it is "disappointed" with the suspension of the bylaw.
Leader Lionel Perez said the city's own data suggests the number of dog bites related to pit bulls accounted for 40 per cent of the total bites reported in 2016 and 2017, even though they represent just three per cent of canines in the city.
Under the previous set of rules, new pit bulls weren't allowed on Montreal territory and those already on the island had to abide by more stringent rules.
"What the administration is doing today is removing the series of additional protections that the bylaw gave Montrealers, particularly the one that required the absence of a criminal record for owners of pit bulls," Perez said.
Separately, Quebec has tabled its own law to ban dangerous dogs but it's unclear whether it will become a dominant issue with a provincial election coming in October.
The pit bull ban was a key election issue during Montreal's municipal campaign this year, and Projet Montreal promised to repeal it.
"I don't think it's responsible for us to wait until the next election to see what the situation is," Sauve said.
Mayor Valerie Plante said Wednesday she is in favour of a global approach in dealing with dog bites and that her administration has a responsibility to avoid creating a false sense of security among the population.
"What we want is to make sure Montrealers are safe (and) we want to prevent dog bites," she said.
"We don't want to target one breed in particular. What we've seen in recent months is the complexity in identifying pit bull-type dogs."