In 2014, we announced a $23M investment to build a city animal service centre, known as the CSAM. Construction starts in the spring of 2017 and the centre is slated to open in 2018. The CSAM will try to find owners of strays, give veterinary care, organize awareness activities and help enforce regulations. Unclaimed animals will be put up for adoption after being examined, cared for, vaccinated, neutered and microchipped. This approach illustrates our care for animals and respect for their lives. Montreal sets a very high bar when it comes to respecting animals’ lives and well-being.
That being said, my top priority will always be people and their safety. That is why we adopted a by-law concerning dangerous dogs and one in particular, the pit bull. Pit bulls have been banned in numerous cities throughout Quebec, Ontario and around the world.
The reasons for this by-law ban are well known: news articles have recently highlighted serious attacks against people by dogs, especially pit bulls and the sense of impunity that seems to prevail among many owners of dangerous dogs. The death of Christiane Vadnais, killed by a dog, generated fear among the public. Public officials clearly had to step in and many cities decided to amend their by-laws.
Yesterday, a Superior Court judge decided to suspend Montréal’s new by-law banning pit bull type dogs in its territory pending a hearing on the substance of the by-law.
We are disappointed by this turn of events. The by-law was designed to ensure the safety of all Montrealers by requiring all owners of pets—particularly dangerous ones—to comply with certain regulations.
We knew we would have to face pro-pit bull lobbyists. The debate quickly became emotional, which we find regrettable. Our sole and unique concern is the security of our fellow Montrealers.
We believe the ban on purchasing any new pit bull type dogs from the date of enactment of this by-law is a sensible way of responding to repeated attacks by dogs—and disproportionately by this type of dog according to most statistics.
We have never considered asking present pit bull owners to euthanize their pets. Quite the contrary. They can keep their pets so long as they get a special permit after the dog is microchipped, neutered and vaccinated against rabies. The owner must also report if he or she has any record of violent crimes.
These requirements address a disproportionate number of attacks by this type of dog and the much more serious injuries they can inflict.
We have been criticized for focusing on pit bulls, without looking at other dangerous dogs. That’s not true. The by-law says that any dog that has previously attacked a person and has been declared a risk must have a special license and comply with certain strict conditions.
We’ve been criticized for moving too fast. That’s not true, either. Our draft by-law went through the usual stages of the municipal process, despite the urgency following Ms. Christiane Vadnais’s death on June 8 after being attacked by a pit bull type dog.
We’ve been criticized for going after dogs and not their owners. This is not true as well. The by-law is primarily aimed at getting pet owners—whose conduct is sometimes far from perfect—to take more responsibility for their animals.
Owning a dog or cat in Montréal is a privilege, not a right. And it comes with obligations.
With great respect for the Judge’s opinion and the court system, we believe this decision is unfounded in fact and law. Quebec’s Superior Court has already and very clearly recognized the right of cities to ban pit bull type dogs.
There is no emergency that would require the immediate suspension of all regulations concerning various pitfall dogs, namely the American Pit Bull Terrier, the American Staffordshire Terrier and the Staffordshire Bull Terrier.
The city will consider an immediate appeal of this decision.
We will not yield to threats nor interest groups. We reconfirm our intention to ban pit bull type dogs from Montréal, as has already been done by some of our boroughs and as in Ontario, in France and in hundreds of cities around the world. We will not compromise when it comes to the safety of our fellow Montrealers.