Approximately 500 Montreal “Pit Bull-type” dog owners have received letters informing them that they have four weeks to “dispose of” their pets.
According to the letter, the recipients failed to provide the required documentation on their dogs prior to the March 31 deadline, or the documentation they provided was incomplete.
Since the deadline has passed, these owners are not being given the chance to remedy the documentation problem. They must now find new homes for their dogs in towns without breed restrictions or surrender them to animal shelters. The city then requires they fill out a form attesting the dogs are no longer in their possession.
If they do not comply, the letters threaten legal action and the seizure of the dogs. No contact information was provided for the owners to respond to.
The controversial Pit Bull ban was voted into law by the Montreal city council in late September 2016. Under the law, any Pit Bull-type dog – a determination made strictly based on appearance, not genetic testing – was required to be sterilized, microchipped, vaccinated for rabies, and registered at a cost of $150 per pet by June 1, 2017.
Those in compliance with the law must now ensure that their Pit Bull-type dogs are muzzled at all times when outside of their homes – including in their own backyards. Unregistered Pits are subject to seizure, euthanasia or forced removal from the municipality. Owners of unregistered dogs of any breed face fines of $300 to $700.
According to Gonzalo Nunez, a spokesman for the city of Montreal, the letter recipients were previously contacted by city employees letting them know their applications were missing information. He told CBS News that the letters were sent as a last-resort following a “rigorous analysis” of each file.
The dog owners may have received prior notice, but according to Sophie Gaillard, a lawyer with the Montreal SPCA, local shelters did not.
“We should have been warned or given some kind of heads up before these letters came out,” Gaillard said.
The ban could result in potentially hundreds of dog owners seeking refuge for their pets at local shelters – facilities that do not have the space or the resources to accommodate the influx. The Montreal SPCA has vowed to fight the ban and even sued the city, saying the new bylaw is “discriminatory, vague and unreasonable.”
In response to the overwhelming number of calls they received from letter recipients, the Montreal SPCA posted advice on Facebook. They encourage dog owners to file a complaint with city ombudsman Johanne Savard and contact a lawyer to help them challenge the city’s application.
For those unable to contest the city, the SPCA’s remaining options are heartbreaking. They recommend that owners pack up and move to a territory where there are no regulations against Pits. Alternatively, the SPCA says to “find a person to whom you can entrust your dog temporarily or permanently and who resides in a territory where there is no regulation aimed at certain dogs according to their breed, crossing or physical characteristics.”
If that option fails, they ask that owners send them descriptions and photos of their dogs to be posted for adoption on their website. And as a last resort, dogs previously adopted from the SPCA or those residing in a borough they serve may be surrendered to the organization.
Readers opposed to breed specific legislation may sign the Care2 petition urging Montreal to repeal its Pit Bull ban.