Why Montreal’s Pit Bull Ban Is Bad Public Policy
UPDATE 10/06: Montreal’s dogs were granted a reprieve yesterday by a Quebec Superior Court judge, who suspended the city’s new BSL bylaw indefinitely following a legal challenge brought by the Montreal SPCA. The judge recommended the city "return to the drawing board" due to the bylaw’s lack of clarity, particularly regarding how to identify the targeted dog breeds. Montreal’s mayor has vowed to appeal the suspension, but it is expected to remain in effect for at least the next few months.
This post was originally published on 9/28/16
In a disappointing move supported by the city’s mayor, the Montreal City Council voted yesterday to ban future ownership of pit bull and “pit bull-type” dogs. Montreal is Canada’s second-largest city and sits a mere 45 miles from the U.S. border.
The ASPCA has worked for years to fight the unjust and ineffective laws known as breed-specific legislation or “BSL.” The stated purpose of BSL is to reduce dog bites and attacks, and while many municipalities have passed these laws, there is no evidence that they work—in fact, they often make matters worse. Montreal need only have looked at the results of BSL in Toronto: Dog bites have actually increased in that city since its BSL passed in 2005.
Montreal’s new bylaw defines pit bulls as: Staffordshire bull terriers, American pit bull terriers, American Staffordshire terriers and, chillingly, “any mix with these breeds” and “any dog that presents characteristics of one of those breeds.” Studies have concluded that dog-breed identifications based on looks alone are completely unreliable—and the confusion only grows when dealing with mixed breeds, which is a fatal flaw in BSL.
When animal control resources are used to regulate or ban a certain breed, the focus is shifted away from effective enforcement of laws that have the best chances of making communities safer and keeping pets and owners together: dog license laws, leash laws, anti-animal fighting laws, laws that prevent neglect, and laws that require all owners to control their dogs, regardless of breed.
With the growing realization that more progressive, well-rounded “dangerous dog laws” that address individual animals and owners are more effective public policy than blanket breed bans, the trend in recent years has been for BSL to be repealed. Montreal is bucking this trend, leaning stubbornly on old ideas, and is on the wrong side of history.