In a judicial act that counts as both a reprieve for pet owners and a stay of execution for dogs, Quebec’s Superior Court has temporarily suspended Montreal’s widely condemned pit bull ban, in response to a request for injunction filed by our friends at the Montreal SPCA. The suspension will continue until a full hearing occurs, perhaps in several months. Pit bull dogs are by no means safe for good in Montreal, but it delays implementation and allows advocates of dogs and fair play an opportunity to press their case and have local lawmakers rethink their rash and reactionary policy.
In his ruling, the judge noted that the legislation appeared to have been “written in a hurry” and would be difficult to enforce. This is not surprising, given Mayor Denis Coderre refused to even meet with the Montreal SPCA (the main animal management provider in the city) prior to drafting this nonsensical ban. If he had, perhaps he would understand that his policy is ill conceived, will do nothing to make his community safer, and will result in the destruction or relocation of hundreds of perfectly adoptable dogs every year.
Montreal dog owners are not the only ones celebrating this temporary stay. A coalition of humane organizations in New England have already said that they would be among the first in line to deal with the influx of relocated pit-bull-type dogs from Montreal.
City officials should look at the data, and the difficulty of enforcement, and revamp their plans. But even as animal protection groups campaign towards this goal, the provincial government is looking to put forward its own legislation on how to regulate dangerous dogs, and it is likely to include some breed specific provisions.
Quebec would be well advised to take note of the fierce backlash that has occurred in the wake of the Montreal ban, and embrace that the vast majority of thought leaders in pet-related policy oppose breed-specific legislation. Twenty U.S. states have enacted prohibitions on BSL because it doesn’t make communities safer, is cost prohibitive and difficult to enforce, causes tremendous hardship to dog owners, and results in needless euthanasia of adoptable dogs. Hundreds of North American municipalities – including many in Canada – have rescinded breed specific legislation for the same reasons.
The Quebec government now has an important opportunity to advance an effective, breed-neutral dog management policy that includes effective measures to improve community safety, with a focus on public education and responsible pet ownership. Furthermore, by making a meaningful investment in enforcement of provincial animal welfare laws, Quebec can help its badly underfunded SPCAs deal with animal welfare holistically, which would be a meaningful step forward in addressing the issue of dangerous dogs. Humane Society International/Canada, our affiliate in the country, is making the case at the local and provincial level.