The controversial Montreal ban of pit bulls and similar breeds could result in the deaths of beloved pets and shelter dogs, an expert tells PEOPLE.
“This new misguided breed discriminatory law will absolutely give the government the authority, and actually the responsibility, of rounding up loving family pets and killing them using tax payer dollars,” Lee Greenwood, Esq., legislative attorney for Best Friends Animal Society, an American animal welfare organization, tells PEOPLE.
The city council of Montreal passed the ban, which goes into effect on Oct. 3, with a 37-23 vote in favor of changes to the city’s animal control bylaw earlier this week.
Owners of Staffordshire bull terriers, American bull terriers, American Staffordshire terriers, mixes of these breeds and any dog who presents characteristics of these breeds must obtain a special permit for their pet by Dec. 31.
Dogs can further be designated as “at-risk” or “dangerous.” “At-risk” animals have bitten someone or exhibited other aggressive behaviors, while “dangerous” dogs are those that have killed a human or received the designation by an expert.
Mayor Denis Coderre said that the council had to adopt the bylaw “to protect all Montrealers and to ensure they feel secure,” according to the Montreal Gazette.
The Mayor further said that according to police statistics, pit bulls were reportedly responsible in 38 percent of dog bites over the last 21 months in Montreal, the Montreal Gazette reported.
The city council’s website says that the new bylaw is meant to “ensure residents’ safety and peace and quiet, as well as cleanliness of public property.”
“This will transform responsible dog owners that already have and love these dogs into criminals if they don’t comply with the draconian provisions of the bylaw, including special licenses and muzzles when they’re in public,” says Greenwood. “And starting October 3, dogs that look like pit bulls are pretty much being handed a death sentence.”
Canines in shelters might face the same, horrific fate at an accelerated rate, Greenwood adds.
“If the dogs in the Montreal shelter system don’t find homes before October 3, they’re being dealt a hand that’s as close to a death sentence as you can get,” he says. “And even those that do find homes in the next few days could be right back in the same perilous situation if their adoptive parents don’t take the measures required by the law.”
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The Montreal city council, Montreal SPCA, the ASPCA and the Dog Legislation Council of Canada did not immediately respond to PEOPLE’s request for comment.
Montreal’s drastic move comes after a woman was fatally attacked by a dog in Montreal, said the CBC. The dog was identified as a pit bull, but police are still waiting on DNA tests to come back.
Subsequently, the Montreal SPCA has threatened to end its dog control services. A Montreal-based coalition of lawyers and animal behavior experts, who openly oppose the ban, plan to move forward with a pre-prepared court challenge.
Concludes Greenwood, “However you parse it, this new law is absolutely going to lead to countless adoptable, friendly and loving dogs being killed, which is exactly why breed discriminatory laws like this are so harmful and why so many communities have recently opted to reject them.”