Sunday, December 4, 2016

Canada: Injunction against Montreal's breed specific legislation (BSL) has been dismissed; the law is NOW IN EFFECT

CANADA -- Quebec's Court of Appeal has dismissed the injunction restricting certain portions of Montreal's Animal Control bylaw.

That means pit bulls in Montreal must be muzzled, on a short leash, and can only be supervised (aka walked on a leash) by an adult.

Pit bull owners have until the end of the month to register their dogs with the city of Montreal.

The court battle began in September when the city of Montreal amended its animal control bylaw to, among other things, restrict pit bulls and other dangerous dogs.

The new bylaw allows existing pit bulls to stay in Montreal as long as they are registered by Dec. 31, 2016, but pit bulls that arrived after Sept. 27 are prohibited.

The SPCA Montreal issued a statement saying it will continue to fight the bylaw.

"Though the fight is not over, we are extremely disappointed by today's decision and particularly preoccupied by not being able to continue finding adoptive homes in Montreal for all of our healthy and behaviorally-sound dogs," wrote Alanna Devine, the SPCA's director of animal advocacy.

“They did agree until the merits of the case are heard… they wouldn’t have any euthanasia orders for what they deem ‘pit bull-type dogs’ simply based on dogs’ appearances or breeds and that they would allow owner or guardians, again, pit bull-type dogs to reclaim their dogs if they are found as strays,” she added in an interview.

Projet Montreal councillor Sterling Downey, who has frequently voiced his opposition to the pit bull aspects of the bylaw, was not dismayed by the Court of Appeal's ruling.

"The judgment rendered today does nothing to change the fact that the city's animal control bylaw is inapplicable and will do nothing to reduce the number of bites," said Downey.

Supporters of the bylaw said the goal is to reduce the severity of bites by dogs, and have pointed out that breed-specific legislation has done exactly that in other cities and provinces.

Mayor Denis Coderre said he was pleased with the legal victory.

"It proves that the legitimacy of the bylaw met in place by our administration, and the necessity to regulate the ownership of dogs that can be dangerous," said Coderre in a statement.

"New pit bull type dogs are banned in Montreal," said Coderre.

He added that several days ago another court in Quebec also ruled in favor of a pit bull ban in another city.

Montreal's requirements for pit bulls and dogs deemed dangerous

In their decision, Justices Francois Pelletier, Manon Savard, and Jean-Francois Emond examined the reasons the SPCA's legal team had for justifying an immediate suspension of the bylaw.

Among the SPCA's arguments were that the city of Montreal did not have the legal power to regulate animals, that a ban on new pit bulls violated Quebec's animal welfare act, that the definition of a pit bull was vague, and that it violated the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

The Appeal court judges determined that the lower court made an error in agreeing with the SPCA in several matters.

In particular, their judgment was that the public interest required legislators to pass laws, but that while laws could be challenged in court, nobody expected laws to be inoperative while they were being challenged.

The Appeal court also said that the hypothetical fear caused by a dog wearing a muzzle was not grounds to issue an injunction. It also found that the requirement for extra administrative work was also not worthy of an injunction.

In a final note, the Appeal judges pointed out that nothing has happened with regards to the original court challenge since the bylaw was adopted, which is hardly the behavior they expected for people complaining of "irreparable prejudice."

Pit bulls, which are just 4.6 per cent of registered dogs in Montreal, are responsible for 37.8 per cent of the 137 serious dog-related injuries and deaths since Jan. 1, 2015.

Pit bulls are defined as the American pit bull terrier, American Staffordshire terrier, and the Staffordshire terrier, dogs that are crossbreeds of the aforementioned animals, or any dog that physically resembles those breeds.

Dangerous dogs are those that have bitten another animal or person.

As of October 3, 2016, no new pit bulls will be permitted within city limits. Existing dogs must be registered by Dec. 31, 2016, or else the animals will be seized.

Read the full details of the bylaw here

It clearly says that current pit bulls in the city of Montreal will be allowed to stay - the owners just need to register them with the city. This is no more of a burden than being required to register your vehicle and renew your tags each year. Also, muzzling your pit bull when in public in Montreal is NOT that big of a burden, according to the judges. Drive 20 minutes and you'll be outside the city limits in a neighboring town and you can take it for a walk there without a muzzle if it's that important to you. 

And it appears that there will be a process for unregistered pit bulls found after the deadline. Likely the owner will be cited, the prosecutor will have to prove that it is a pit bull type dog by having a veterinarian verify this, and they will either let the owner pay a fine and court costs, register it at that point and take it home - or they may not return it. For example, someone with an extensive criminal record or someone with a history with animal control. Regardless, every person will have their day in court. 

Pit bulls that are found and taken to the shelter are likely to be temperment tested and then offered to rescues outside the city. 

All the people against this law want you to believe that Nazi-style raids would occur in the middle of the night, that doors would be kicked in and your dog dragged out and killed, that nursing litters of puppies would be taken from their mothers and killed, etc. None of that is true. 

If this law prevents one more person in Montreal from being attacked and killed; if this law prevents one person from being forever physically (and mentally) altered by an attack, I'm for it.

(Montreal CTV News - Dec 2, 2016)


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