Injunction dismissed: Montreal's pit bull bylaw now in effect
Published Thursday, December 1, 2016 4:32PM EST
Last Updated Friday, December 2, 2016 6:40PM EST
Quebec's Court of Appeal has dismissed the injunction restricting certain portions of Montreal's Animal Control bylaw.
That means pit bulls in Montreal must be muzzled, on a short leash, and can only be cared for by an adult.
Pit bull owners have until the end of the month to register their dogs with the city of Montreal.
The court battle began in September when the city of Montreal amended its animal control bylaw to, among other things, restrict pit bulls and other dangerous dogs.
The new bylaw allows existing pit bulls to stay in Montreal as long as they are registered by Dec. 31, 2016, but pit bulls that arrived after Sept. 27 are prohibited.
The SPCA Montreal issued a statement saying it will continue to fight the bylaw.
"Though the fight is not over, we are extremely disappointed by today's decision and particularly preoccupied by not being able to continue finding adoptive homes in Montreal for all of our healthy and behaviourally-sound dogs," wrote Alanna Devine, the SPCA's director of animal advocacy.
“They did agree until the merits of the case are heard… they wouldn’t have any euthanasia orders for what they deem ‘pit bull-type dogs’ simply based on dogs’ appearances or breeds and that they would allow owner or guardians, again, pit bull-type dogs to reclaim their dogs if they are found as strays,” she added in an interview.
Projet Montreal councillor Sterling Downey, who has frequently voiced his opposition to the pit bull aspects of the bylaw, was not dismayed by the Court of Appeal's ruling.
"The judgment rendered today does nothing to change the fact that the city's animal control bylaw is inapplicable and will do nothing to reduce the number of bites," said Downey.
Supporters of the bylaw said the goal is to reduce the severity of bites by dogs, and have pointed out that breed-specific legislation has done exactly that in other cities and provinces.
Mayor Denis Coderre said he was pleased with the legal victory.
"It proves that the legitimacy of the bylaw met in place by our administration, and the necessity to regulate the ownership of dogs that can be dangerous," said Coderre in a statement.
He added that several days ago another court in Quebec also ruled in favour of a pit bull ban in another city.
"New pit bull type dogs are banned in Montreal," said Coderre.
The SPCA is challenging the bylaw in court, and as a first step asked for, and was granted, an injunction stopping the pit-bull-specific previsions of the bylaw.
Montreal challenged the injunction, and the Court of Appeal agreed that the injunction was not necessary.
In their decision, Justices Francois Pelletier, Manon Savard, and Jean-Francois Emond examined the reasons the SPCA's legal team had for justifying an immediate suspension of the bylaw.
Among the SPCA's arguments were that the city of Montreal did not have the legal power to regulate animals, that a ban on new pit bulls violated Quebec's animal welfare act, that the definition of a pit bull was vague, and that it violated the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
The Appeal court judges determined that the lower court made an error in agreeing with the SPCA in several matters.
In particular, their judgment was that the public interest required legislators to pass laws, but that while laws could be challenged in court, nobody expected laws to be inoperative while they were being challenged.
The Appeal court also said that the hypothetical fear caused by a dog wearing a muzzle was not grounds to issue an injunction. It also found that the requirement for extra administrative work was also not worthy of an injunction.
In a final note, the Appeal judges pointed out that nothing has happened with regards to the original court challenge since the bylaw was adopted, which is hardly the behaviour they expected for people complaining of "irreparable prejudice."