Animal Legal Defense Fund Voices Support for Montreal SPCA’s Effort to Overturn Breed-discrimination Law

Posted on December 20, 2016

Contact: Natalia Lima,, 201 679 7088

The Animal Legal Defense Fund supports the Montreal SPCA in its efforts to overturn the city’s ban on “pit bull-type dogs.” The new by-law makes it illegal to adopt or otherwise acquire any dog identified as “a pit bull-type dog” within Montreal city limits. It prevents shelters from placing these dogs through adoption, and imposes mandatory muzzling of these dogs at all times when outdoors, even in their owners’ backyard. Not only is the by-law discriminatory and nearly impossible to fairly enforce, it also raises legal concerns based on the Civil Code of Quebec, which was recently amended to expressly recognize animals as “sentient beings.”

The ban will penalize any dog deemed a “pit bull-type” regardless of the individual dog’s behavior. In Montreal’s by-law, “pit bull” includes three distinct breeds, mixes thereof and any dog with the characteristics of these breeds. Empirical data confirms that even animal care professionals cannot reliably identify breeds by appearance. In fact, the isolated incident that spurred Montreal’s new law involved a dog originally described as a pit bull, but who was later found to have been registered as a Boxer. Though genetic analyses were allegedly conducted by the city of Montreal to determine the dog’s breed, the results of these tests have yet to be disclosed.

Breed-discriminatory laws are often passed in the immediate wake of one tragic event. Montreal, like all jurisdictions, has an interest in protecting its citizens, but these laws have been shown to be wholly ineffective at reducing dog bites or increasing public safety. Laws that are breed-neutral and focus on individual animal and guardian behavior allow communities to address dangerous dogs effectively.

“Evidence is mounting that breed-discriminatory laws do not effectively protect public safety,” says Animal Legal Defense Fund Executive Director Stephen Wells. “In the U.S., groups that oppose breed-discriminatory policies include the American Bar Association, the American Veterinary Medical Association and the Obama administration.”

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