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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Judge temporarily suspends Montreal pit bull ban

This photo taken Sept. 25, 2016, shows Bless, an American Pit Bull Terrier, being treated to a free grooming session at Pampered Pets in Montreal. (Graham Hughes / Associated Press)
By Tracey Lindeman Associated Press

MONTREAL – A Quebec Superior Court judge on Monday temporarily suspended Montreal’s pit bull ban on the same day the new law was to come into effect.

The local SPCA humane society took the city to court over the ban, which places restrictions on owning a pit bull.

Judge Louis Gouin suspended the parts of the animal control law that deal with pit bull-type dogs until Wednesday evening while he evaluates the SPCA’s request.

Spurred by a fatal dog attack in June that left a Montreal woman dead, the city council voted 37-23 in favor of the ban last week. The law’s passage obligated residents to register their pit bulls with the city by Monday.

The suspension means pit bulls can still be adopted and muzzling is not mandatory as the law required.

The pit bull sections of the animal control law as first written would have put unadopted pit bulls and pit mixes in shelters at risk of being euthanized. Animal-welfare groups outside of Montreal have already been in touch with local shelters to take in any remaining pit bulls, says the SPCA.

Nathalie Jean, whose rescue dog is potentially, to her knowledge, a pit bull mix, said her dog never did anything wrong.

“All we did is rescue a dog, and now I feel persecuted and punished,” she said. “I’m living in fear letting her out to pee in my own yard.”

Montreal resident and dog owner Allison Gauthier said the ambiguity in the city’s new regulation on pit bulls has left her scrambling to decipher the rules.

“It’s still unclear if there will be additional dates to register after October, as well as whether or not my dog actually falls into the category of `pit bull-type dog,“’ said Gauthier, who adopted her three-year-old dog from the SPCA a year ago. “I’ve ordered a DNA test just in case it comes to that. She’s registered with the vet as a boxer/beagle cross.”

She said that although her dog Ruby is not, on paper, a pit bull, her looks alone may arouse suspicion.

Gauthier opted for the muzzle and harness as a precaution.

“I’m not willing to risk getting fines or my dog seized for not adhering to the law while we wait for this mess to get sorted,” she said.

The difficulty in identifying a breed by sight is a major part of the problem, as is the regulation’s usage of the term “pit bull-type” to describe breeds, said Anita Kapuscinska, a spokesperson with the Montreal SPCA.

The dog involved in the fatal attack was first identified on sight by police as a pit bull, but its breed has since been disputed.

Rene Cadieux, a lawyer for the city, said common sense will be used to apply the law, which states that American Staffordshire terriers, Staffordshire bull terriers and American pit bull terriers – or any dogs mixed with those breeds or that bear similar physical characteristics – are part of the ban.

“If it looks like a duck, walks like a duck, quacks like a duck, it’s gotta be a duck,” Cadieux said. “And people will look at it from this criteria.”