Montreal takes a step backwards with pitbull ban

Bradley Smith / The Watchdog

Last June in Montreal, the tragic death of a 55-year-old woman who was mauled to death by an alleged pit bull stirred the public enough to push the government to consider a bylaw that bans and sets restrictions on all pit bulls and any breed that may resemble one. While it is difficult to imagine the pain that the woman and her mourning friends and family went through, I still stand firmly against restricting an entire breed due to incidents such as this. It is also crucial to mention that a few months after the incident, The Humane Society International revealed the dog’s registration papers identifying it as a boxer.

It’s important to understand what the terms and requirements within the bylaw will be. Some of the conditions don’t seem too unreasonable. For example, requiring all currently owned pit bulls to get vaccinated and microchipped is something that any pet owner should get done for their dog in the first place. Other things such as mandatory muzzles in public, being on a leash four feet or shorter and being forcibly sterilized are ridiculous and unnecessary.

On top of those conditions specific to the dogs, there are also aspects that directly affect the owners. All current pit bull owners will need to pay for a special permit just to continue owning a dog they already possess. It doesn’t end there though, owners will also need to pass criminal background checks. The reason this is particularly absurd is how vague the description is for what kind of criminal past will make a person unqualified to own a pit bull.

The repercussions of noncompliance with the bylaws can lead to the dog getting taken away from its family and possibly put in a shelter, which brings up the question of what will happen to these dogs that are there. Since it will be illegal to adopt a pit bull it’s pretty clear that they will be euthanized. That would result in an awful lot of dogs getting put down purely because they were born to a certain breed which is never acceptable.

The issue of dog attacks on humans is not created by the dogs, it’s entirely dependent on the interactions with humans throughout their lives, further supporting the fact that banning a breed of dogs is not going to eliminate the problem. Perhaps the government should be taking a closer look at the real cause of aggressive dogs. Even something as simple as funding for proper dog training in shelters would greatly improve any dog’s interactions with the world around them.

Another issue with the ban is the vagueness of what is defined as a pit bull. Pit bull isn’t even an actual registered breed on its own. It loosely refers to a variety of breeds such as American pit bull terriers, Staffordshire bull terriers, American Staffordshire terriers and mixes of these breeds. The definition goes on to also include any dog that fits the visual description of a medium to large dog with a broad head, neck and shoulders. Going off a visual based determination is arbitrary since every person has different opinions on what may or may not look like a pit bull.

Fortunately enough this ban was recently suspended indefinitely due to threats of lawsuits and preexisting laws that grants animals the status of sentient beings. Don’t be mistaken though because that in no way means that the Montreal government can’t or won’t try to make this happen again. The best way to keep this kind of injustice from occurring is by speaking out and creating pressure against it.

Despite this victory it should not be overlooked that these types of pit bull bans are not new in Canada. Many other cities in Quebec and other provinces already have bans and or restrictions in place. The attention for this matter should be broadened and spread because no dog deserves to be treated as an object to be subjected to the cruelty of humans.