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Quebec judge muzzles Montreal pit bull law, grants stay until other hearing is held

October 05, 2016 - 2:30 PM

MONTREAL - The City of Montreal's push to ban new pit bulls suffered another setback Wednesday when a judge ruled parts of its legislation can't be introduced until a court hearing is held on the merits of the case.

That might only be several months down the road.

On Monday, the Montreal branch of the SPCA obtained a temporary stay to suspend several pit bull-related provisions of the city's animal control bylaw, which came into effect that day.

It argued that some elements are discriminatory, unreasonable and unenforceable and would result in all pit bulls being penalized regardless of their behaviour.

On Wednesday, Superior Court Justice Louis J. Gouin extended his temporary stay, saying the SPCA had demonstrated a "real and immediate urgency" and the existence of a "serious issue" that needed to be settled.

"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 judge suggested Monday that Montreal might have overstepped the mark by placing an entire breed in a category described as dangerous.

He encouraged the city to go back to the drawing board and reflect on the definitions and wording between now and whenever the current case is hashed out.

The legislation would have prohibited new pit bulls on the territory of Montreal and placed restrictions on those already there.

Mayor Denis Coderre has defended the bylaw as a balanced approach, although the move to introduce breed-specific legislation was widely criticized both before and after city council passed it last week.

In particular, Coderre dismissed the notion the city went too quickly, saying it could have acted immediately after the dog-related death of a Montreal woman in June.

Instead, the city studied the matter for a few months and crafted a bylaw he said is similar to what has been enacted elsewhere.

"A city has the right to decide on its territory how to best protect it citizens," Coderre said Wednesday, shortly before the judgment came down.

Gouin agreed with the SPCA's assertion that identifying a "pit bull-type dog" is problematic. The SPCA argued the definition is "vague and imprecise" and that neither it nor dog owners are sure which canines are covered.

American Staffordshire terriers, Staffordshire bull terriers and American pit bull terriers — or any dogs mixed with those breeds or that bear similar physical characteristics — were part of the ban.

For its part, the animal rights organization applauded the court ruling.

"The fight is far from being over, but we are very pleased with this first victory," said Sophie Gaillard, a lawyer who sits on the SPCA's executive.

"We are particularly delighted to be able to continue finding adoptive homes for all of our healthy and behaviourally sound dogs, regardless of their physical appearance."

News from © The Canadian Press, 2016
The Canadian Press

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