Pit bull-type dogs just scored a victory in Montreal.
Judge Louis Gouin of the Quebec Superior Court suspended the pit bull ban imposed on the city, believing the language was too vague to enforce.
“This ‘serious issue,’ more precisely, is the jurisdiction of the city because, in adopting the contested provisions, which appear inconsistent with other laws, the city may have overstepped the limits of its jurisdiction,” Gouin wrote.
The city wanted to ban pit-bull type dogs, defined as American Staffordshire terriers, Staffordshire bull terriers and American pit bull terriers – or any dog that is mixed with these breeds or resembles them. By having such a broad definition, questions arose about how the city would enforce this law. It would be extremely difficult (and costly) to test every dog that may look like a pit bull. And just judging a dog on its appearance alone could result in errors and misclassifications.
“I won’t hide from you that in my reading of the bylaw … I had several questions,” Gouin said to the city’s legal representative, René Cadieux, in court.
“Are we talking about first generation crosses? Do we go back to the grandparents?”
The city didn’t have an answer.
Instead, Cadieux gave a simple response that did little to resolve the complicated issue. “If it walks like a duck, if it quacks like a duck, it’s got to be a duck,” he said.
Gouin asked the city to go back to the drawing board to better define what dogs they believed should be banned and improve the language of the law.
“The fight is far from being over, but we are very pleased with this first victory” Sophie Gaillard, lawyer for the Animal Advocacy Department of the Montreal SPCA, said in a statement. “We are particularly delighted to be able to continue finding adoptive homes for all of our healthy and behaviorally sound dogs, regardless of their physical appearance.”
Mayor Denis Coderre, who has pushed for the bylaw, thought otherwise. “A city has the right to decide on its territory how to best protect it citizens,” Coderre said on Wednesday after the ruling.
This ban came after a woman was mauled in her background by what at the time was described as a pit bull owned by her neighbor. Later, records show the owner registered the dog as a boxer. The city is still waiting on the results of DNA tests.
The city would have required owners to pay $150 to hold a special permit, have their dogs sterilized, vaccinated and microchipped. When in public, the dogs would have needed to be muzzled and on a 4-foot leash.
For those dogs believed to be pit bulls in shelters, the law would have not allowed any of them to be adopted out. Instead, puppies, perfectly healthy and well-behaved dogs would have been euthanized.
The hearing to determine if the law, or some form of it, will be enacted could take several months.