On September 27th, the city council of Montreal passed (37-23) a new by-law that will ban pit bulls and pit bull-type breeds. This by-law was made effective just four months after a Montreal woman was killed by what the police claimed to be a “pit bull looking” dog. DNA tests were not released.
Montreal has banned the acquisition of pit bull type dogs and will be forcing current owners of these dogs to follow strict regulations. These regulations include purchasing a special permit, keeping the dog muzzled at all times in public, and passing a criminal background check.
The news of BSL in Montreal has left me feeling an array of emotions, from confusion, disappointment, frustration, and embarrassment toward my newfound home. I choose to attend veterinary school in Canada after learning about their progressive views and extensive research in regard to animal welfare.
BSL is not formed based on proven research but instead anecdotal evidence and fear. I’m a firm believer that discrimination has no place in civilized society. No animal or human should face this type of injustice purely based on their appearance, with no regard to their individual character.
Here are just a few of the reasons why this by-law is unethical and not based on factual evidence:
- BSL doesn’t work: The Toronto Humane Society performed a survey in 2010 and found that there was no reduction in the amount dog bites since BSL was passed in Ontario. They also found that jurisdictions with BSL had similar dog bite statistics as those without.
- Education is more effective: Calgary has seen a huge overall reduction in dog bites over the past 20 years. The city does not support BSL, but instead has implemented strong licensing and invested in public education regarding dog bite safety.
- Enforcement is based on appearance, not genetics: The ban discriminates against any dog that has pit bull-like characteristics. This was described as a big head and thick neck. These criteria are ambiguous and punish dogs based on their appearance. Genetic testing is not required, which can result in many dogs being mistaken labeled as pit bulls. Owners also have no way to refute claims against their dogs.
- Aggression is multi-factorial – not just genetic: Aggressive behavior is a result of many different environmental factors including lack of socialization/training, inadequate exercise, lack of necessary mental stimulation, health conditions, reproductive status, poor breeding, and previous mistreatment. For these reasons, you cannot make the blanket statement that a breed is aggressive.
- Holding animals accountable instead of irresponsible owners: I am a firm believer that a dog’s behavior is a by-product of the human that owns it. It is the responsibility of the dog owner to ensure that their dog is well behaved, well socialized, and under control. Owners need to be held accountable for unruly dogs and fines should be implemented for those who have not attempted to manage their dangerous dog. Don’t punish a dog for the negligence of its owner.
Luckily, there is still hope. The Quebec Superior Court has suspended the ban until further notice, but the fight is not over yet.