Montreal fumbles the ball with breed-specific dog ban

By on September 30, 2016 with 19 Comments By Wayne Pacelle

Montreal is bucking a North American trend by enacting an ordinance that bans “pit bull” and “pit bull type” dogs within city limits, setting the stage for the possible euthanasia of hundreds of dogs who’ve done nothing wrong and are targeted solely because of how they look. Most jurisdictions with similar bans, whether cities, counties, states, or provinces, have repealed them over time as unworkable, since there’s no breed known as a “pit bull” and so many dogs are mixed breeds and it’s impossible to determine their lineage.

By a vote of 37 to 23, in the wake of the fatal and tragic mauling of 55-year-old Christiane Vadnais, Montreal adopted its ban this week. Under the new law, among other regulations, it will be illegal to acquire a pit bull or a pit bull mix starting Monday, October 3. Those who already have pit bulls or pit bull mixes 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.

Quebec is considering a province-wide policy. Ontario, the largest of Canada’s provinces by population, also has a breed-specific ordinance targeting pit bulls.

Breed bans typically follow tragic incidents, where policy makers struggle to deal with the grief and pain of families that have suffered an injury or, in the worst of cases, a loss of life. Tragic cases, however, don’t necessarily translate into good law. The dog who took Ms. Vadnais’s life was unneutered and unlicensed, and had attacked someone on a prior occasion (reports suggest there may have been others). The city did not intervene or enforce the dangerous dog bylaws that it already has on the books. In fact, the city did not take any action to seize the animal, have him evaluated, or impose restrictions, although the existing statutes allowed for those remedies. The HSUS and Humane Society International support the adoption of dangerous dog laws, and urge their vigorous enforcement, allowing authorities to identify animals of any type that exhibit menacing or dangerous behavior.


The HSUS and HSI have long-standing anti-breed-specific policies. Above, with Sasha, a dog I met at a Pets for Life event in Philadelphia. Photo by Sarah Barnett/The HSUS

Ironically, there’s been no consensus on the breed of the dog involved in the attack. Evidence suggests he was a mixed breed dog and our HSI/Canada team found out that he had actually been registered in his early years as a “boxer.” Also, to put things in perspective, there have been six cases of humans killed by dogs in the past 30 years in Quebec province, including this latest case in Montreal. Not a single one of those other cases involved a pit bull or a pit bull mix.

HSI/Canada has been campaigning for months against breed-specific legislation in Quebec. The Montreal SPCA, which we’ve partnered with, took a strong stand against the ban and has pledged to end the animal control contracts they have with the city and other municipalities if they are required to enforce the ban. The group courageously filed an injunction immediately after the vote on Tuesday.

We are also making sure our voice is heard in current ongoing discussions in Quebec for a complete ban on pit bull-type dogs across the province. We’ve been disappointed to see People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals endorse this Montreal ordinance and adopt an anti-pit bull mindset. Not only do The HSUS and HSI have long-standing anti-breed-specific policies, but so do so many other major organizations, including the American Veterinary Medical Association, and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. President Obama has also opposed such policies.

It is wrong headed for community leaders in Quebec province and the otherwise progressive city of Montreal to fall prey to fear-mongering and hysteria. Even if lawmakers see the light eventually and the ban is overturned, it would be too late for many animals in shelters who could die as a result of this new law.

Help stop breed-specific legislation from moving forward in Quebec »

Companion Animals, Humane Society International, Public Policy (Legal/Legislative)

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  1. Kathryn Moore says:

    Thank you for your support. We, in Montreal, are very upset with the Mayor regarding this issue and many animal societies across Canada and in Vermont are stepping forward to save the dogs, if necessary.

  2. Sheena Erin says:

    This was an educated decision, and I applaud them. It’s hard to do the right thing for your constituency, but they have. I see that at least 37 of then have looked at the proper sources and made the only decision that makes sense.
    As a person who has seen not once, but twice, what a Pit Bull and Pit Mix can do, I am educated now in ways I never wished to be. All dogs can bite, and many do. A Pit Bull has been bred for decades to hang on, grip, shake, maul, dismember and be impervious to pain. Is that breeding that you want as a family dog? Pit’s don’t bite,they engage in an attack. Other dogs bite.
    I would suggest that some animals are not meant to be household pets, and unfortunately, Pit Bulls & mixes fall into this category. I know that everyone thinks that “Their” dog is not capable. Maybe they are right! If you have a large bowl of jelly beans and 3 are poison, would you let your kids stick their hands in to have a snack? I hope not. You would just skip the jelly beans altogether. And if you don’t have sense enough to skip them, I would hope they would be banned. And that is what your government just did for you. This was a favor to Montreal’s people, and you ALL should be thankful.

  3. Grace Sciortino says:

    I can’t believe dogs may be killed because of their breed
    this is wrong for any country or state to make up such a
    law what gives them the right to make this law Quebec
    may never see people visit their again if they go forward
    with breed specific legislation shame on them for not
    caring about the animals many breeds of animals may
    stack for some reason like being kick hit with rocks hit with
    sticks teased dogs have been blame for many things that
    humans cause so maybe we should put a breed of human
    down… how stupid can such a law be as stupid as the people
    who make it…This Should Not Ever Be Passed

  4. Julie Wall says:

    How is speaking on the behalf of all the people, pets and livestock that have been severely mauled and/or killed mostly by pit bulls fear mongering . That is your choice if you do not want to learn from other people’s tragedies. But we will keep speaking up for all the people and pets that have been severely mauled and for the families who have lost a loved one or a beloved pet to a pit bull attack.

    Their legislators are to be APPLAUDED. Canada CARES about the safety of THEIR people and other people’s beloved pets. 

    This comes on the heels of the pit bull lobby and their massive fraudulent and unconscionable tactics being exposed for what they are – a bunch of demented and selfish lunatics that think their financial gain is worth your child or family members’ lives, that all other breeds being decimated by these killing machines is fine and that exploit pit bulls themselves for financial gain. BLOOD MONEY AT ITS FINEST.

  5. Denise says:

    506 Fatalpitbullattacks dot com are by Staffie Pit bulls as small as 40 pounds like Achilles who killed a 60 year old man. He was neutered and passed Shelter tests 3 months earlier. 32 Staffy Pit bulls, 7 Bullmastiffs, 3 Rotties and 1 Pitsky that were sterilized and passed SAFER shelter tests have killed people.

    However, if you’re convinced these are safe dogs, why don’t you send them to Cyndi Lauper in California? Not only did she start a Petition to save Montreal’s poor Pitties, the California Governor just signed a bill outlawing gas chambers for euthanizing dogs and for allowing even steroid injected fighting dogs to be rehomed into family neighborhoods. I’m sure wealthy celebrities like Kaley Cuoco, Miley Cyrus and Cesar would be willing to help.

  6. Denise says:

    Here are some fantastic training tips from experienced Montreal dog trainers, as follows:

    Muzzle parties

    Amanda McKernan started training her 10-year-old dog Kristal more than a month ago.

    She started slowly by showing Kristal the muzzle and giving her treats, to create a positive association in the dog’s mind.

    Eventually, she worked her way up to what she calls “surprise muzzle parties.”

    “Run in the house, grab the muzzle, make it as exciting as possible,” said McKernan. “Run around the house and just keep giving treats along the way.”

    “Every time she sees that she wants to see the muzzle because she wants this to happen.”

    Kristal tries a muzzle
    Amanda McKernan feeds 10-year-old dog Kristal a treat through her muzzle to get her used to wearing it. (Sébastien Gauvin/CBC)
    Other tricks include feeding the dog a treat through the hole in the muzzle without strapping it onto the pet’s head.

    “I lathered it in peanut butter on the inside, just to make sure it was the right size when they tried it on the first time,” said Sabrina Mignacca, a dog trainer who has muzzle-trained her two dogs since July in preparation for the new bylaw.

    After a few days, Milo and Ivy would put their faces into the muzzle voluntarily and tolerate having the straps tightened.

    “Walking in it though has still been a bit difficult. Ivy will try to pull it off,” said Mignacca. “So I’ve been trying to do little games with it so that she can like it more.”

    Ginette Heppelle
    @Jason Forbes, “Odin has been working on muzzle training for over a month now. He wags his tail and is very happy when the muzzle comes out because it has always been paired with yummy treats and games. He willingly comes running over to put his nose in it. You can actually see his tail wagging in this picture.”

  7. Denise says:

    Friends in Alberta may want to write their SPCA and the Mayor of Calgary especially as the Montreal SPCA is holding onto 700 surrendered Pit bulls like the one above that they are flying into Calgary with the help of Wings Rescue group from California. Tell them to send them back to California if they are afraid of euthanasia because California’s Governor just signed a Bill allowing even steroid injected Pit bulls from fighting rings to be adopted out instead of humanely euthanized.

    Bill Bruce of AFF and former Calgary Animal Services director already paved the way for thousands of Pit bulls to be imported to Calgary and Severe Level 4 bites are steadily increasing from 198 in 2013 to 250 in 2015. Yikes!

    All’s well that ends well with National BSL like 40 Countries already have and the US Military in all 3 divisions.

  8. Julie Wall says:

    Think about it. If all the pit bulls are fixed in Montréal, the shelters will not have to deal with the over population of unwanted pit bulls. It makes me question your motives why you would be against this?

  9. Julie Wall says:

    Think about it. If all the pit bulls are fixed in Montreal the shelters will not have to deal with the over population of unwanted pit bulls. Make me question HSUS real motive to be for overpopulation of pit bulls?

  10. Olive Zee says:

    Good for Montreal. Lives will be saved.

    Last year Pits accounted for 82% of the human deaths caused by dogs. Of course most of these dogs “haven’t done anything wrong,” but with statistics like this, it’s obvious that there is a fault in the breed. Men make mistakes and the men who bred Pits over the years chose to breed violent dogs, too many times. It’s time to correct the mistake by ending the breeding of this particular dog and letting the ones in existence die of old age without breeding pups.

    We have over 200 other breeds to choose from. Don’t get a Pitbull. Don’t put your family or your neighbor’s family at risk.

  11. Matteo Simon says:

    Thank you Wayne and HSUS team for raising awareness about this cruel and misguided legislation by Quebec lawmakers.

    There is outrage across the U.S. and Canada in recent years about “racial profiling” of humans. Why then should we allow “breed profiling” of dogs, especially when there is no evidence that specific breeds are actually more dangerous than any other breed?

    You make an excellent point in the article about it being impossible to determine (with all mixed-breed dogs, etc) what kind of dog is or is not a “pitbull” anyway. It seems to me that such a law would be inherently non-enforceable if there is not even a clear and unambiguous definition of what actually constitutes a “culprit” breeds.

    Thank you too for including Take Action button at the bottom for your Canadian readers!

  12. Diane Rauch says:

    They are very sweet, loving dogs who do not in any way deserve this.
    They need the same love, commitment and training as any other breed of dog.
    PLEASE do not single out a certain breed of dog. Thank you for doing the right thing and having compassion for these wonderful dogs and for their owners.

  13. ALICIA says:

    Don’t confuse me with the facts – said everyone that ever endorsed the murder of innocent animals.

    All life matters. If you choose murder over science, that is your decision, but it should not effect the policies that govern humanity.

    Humans are supposed to be intelligent beings. Do your homework. If you don’t do your homework and educate yourself, and choose to ‘believe’ in something that ISNT fact, then you’re as stupid as the people putting these laws into place in the first place.

    In this specific instance, the dog was a BOXER. AND BY THE WAY, there are more bites from LABS recorded in our emergency rooms than PIT BULLS.

    There is NO WAY to distinguish what a PITBULL IS. NONE. Except by looks and genetically, almost impossible THAT IS WHY it has take over 3 months to get the DNA results.

    And by the way? There will be no DNA tests. WHY? Because we’d rather use opinions, hysteria, and ignorance to swade a decision to MURDER animals.

    Good job humanity. Keep it up. That saying ‘the more I know my dog, the more I hate people’. Yeah, sounds about right.

    You should all be ashamed for ‘applauding’ MURDER. What the heck is wrong with you?? If there was actual SCIENCE and REAL DATA (not skewed) to PROVE this, then sure, I could see your point. But I would still do everything in my power to get to the root cause instead of using a band aid. In this case, MURDER.

    Paint it however you want. Their blood is on your hands.

    But since none of you took the time to do any research or your homework before condemning these poor animals which BY THE WAY are a product of idiots who allowed dog fighting and DID NOTHING to help these poor animals.

    Are you kidding?

    That’s like saying ‘lets take away all housing for people less fortunate then us’ and hope the problem goes away.


    Too bad there are no bans to prevent people with sub par intelligence and no compassion from breeding! STUPIDITY unfortunately does not prevent breeding! God I wish the same rules applied for humans!

    • Martin Falls says:

      Thanks for the thoughtful and passionate post, Alicia. I’m with you. How shocking and sad that Montreal is even considering such ill-conceived legislation and action, especially when Quebec is one of the few refuges left for these unjustly maligned dogs, which frankly confuses me as a US citizen. We are plenty stupid down here, but BSL is actually on the decline in the US. Ironically, as an American progressive I’ve often cited many Canadian policies as something to which we should aspire, but damn sure not this one. I live in the Baltimore area of Maryland, a nexus for pit bull fighting and a rescue hub for these dogs.
      My girl Alley (a pit bull rescue mix, never checked her DNA) was a stellar canine ambassador, nurse to my aged and failing mother, and a welcome visitor at hospitals and nursing homes when we visited Mom. They called her “Dr. Alley.” She loved ALL humans (although they had abused her in early life), didn’t even challenge the ****s who broke into our house on one occasion, and changed hearts and minds wherever she was, here at home or in our travels throughout Maryland and the northeastern United States.
      One day on a hike in a state park, we happened upon a young man on a bike so terrified by her appearance (little 40-pound black and white girl; stupid humans did a hatchet job on her ears when young), he climbed a tree to get away from her. We spoke for some time, and he explained that he had been bitten by a dog before (not a pit) while on his bike, and that he had heard about “those pit bulls.” I told him her story, and assured him (with Al still on leash and sitting patiently by) that not all dogs are unstable, that “breed” is not the issue, and that she personally was no threat to him or his bike (She loved anything with tires, but would just sniff and lick them). Eventually he climbed down from the tree, and by the end of our conversation she was in his arms and licking his face as he embraced and stroked her (and then went on to inspect his bike tires). Finally, he stood up, we shook hands, our eyes wet, and he went his way. This was one of the pinnacle spiritual experiences of my life, thanks to my dear girl who made my life worth living every day of the 13 years she was in it.

  14. ROWENA SUAREZ says:

    Thank goodness the gas chambers are not allowed any more in California.Thank you GovernorJerryBrown.

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