Quebec’s largest city officially passed a ban last October — making it impossible to adopt pit bull type dogs from shelters and imposing harsh conditions on current owners.
While the provincial legislation, dubbed Bill 128, takes inspiration from Montreal, animal experts warn that the city should hardly be used as a model.
“It’s been a complete and utter disastrous nightmare for the city,” Alanna Devine, director of animal advocacy at the Montreal SPCA, tells iHeartDogs.
For one thing, the city’s definition of a pit bull is dangerously murky. The ban claims to target American pit bull terriers, American Staffordshire terriers or Staffordshire bull terriers. In reality, any dog with a large head and stocky physique is at risk of being taken away from their family.
“It’s unenforceable,” Devine says. “People have no idea what kind of dogs they have.”
In addition, dogs resembling pit bulls in city shelters are also no longer allowed to be adopted in the city — putting the lives of shelter dogs in even greater danger.
“Certainly, the experience here is that it’s caused utter chaos,” Devine explains.
So why extend that chaos to an entire province?
In introducing the legislation, which could be passed as soon as this summer, Coiteux claims it will curb a recent spate of dog attacks in the province. Specifically, he points to a dog attack last summer that claimed the life of a Montreal woman named Christiane Vadnais.
“The attacks across Quebec, the death of [Christiane] Vadnais convinced us that we had to proceed with banning pit bull-type dogs,” Coiteux tells CBC News.
Montreal mayor Denis Coderre was quick to run with that narrative, using it to usher in the citywide ban. And now Coiteux has taken the same refrain to the provincial level.
The trouble is there’s little evidence the dog was actually a pit bull, with the Humane Society International even claiming the dog was a boxer.
The Montreal SPCA is also skeptical.
“We have actually no evidence whatsoever what type of dog was involved in the incident,” Devine says.
What is clear is that more dogs and their families will suffer under a province-wide ban.
“What it does is, it ends up in the large-scale deaths of dogs in shelter systems across the province,” Devine says. “There’s fear, hatred, neighbors turning on neighbors — without getting to the root core of the issue — which is preventing dogs from biting or attacking in the first place.”
While she acknowledges the need for legislation addressing aggressive dogs, Devine says it needs to be based on scientific fact and expert opinion — and not target a specific type of dog.
“It should just be provincial legislation that actually addresses the root core of the issue based on what experts and science tells us — which is that this type of legislation does nothing to reduce the risks or severity of dog bites,” she says.
Indeed, in the neighboring province of Ontario, where a pit bull ban has been in place for more than a decade, there have actually been more dog bites than ever.
And dogs who need a lifeline, like the 21 pit bulls seized during a raid on a dog fighting operation last October, are instead facing a death sentence.