Montreal is days away from voting on legislation that would ban any dog resembling a pit bull — and kill thousands more.
Mayor Denis Coderre claims the ban is in the interest of public safety following a spate of attacks from dogs who may or may not be pit bulls.
But critics claim it's overkill, in the most literal sense of the word.
"We are talking a very large number of completely unnecessary deaths of adoptable dogs in a very short time," Alanna Devine, director of animal advocacy at the Montreal SPCA, tells The Dodo.
ONE LAST CHANCE RESCUE
Even more alarming, Devine says, the legislation is so vaguely worded, it's impossible to know how much damage it can cause.
"It does not make any sense," she says. "I have a legal background and read the legislation a thousand times and can't understand what it will entail."
Ultimately, the law could affect just about any medium-sized dog "with short fur and a big head," she adds.
In other words, if you happen to be a dog, or love a dog, in Montreal, you have reason to worry.
Especially since, despite a tide of criticism from animal advocates around the world, the ban is expected to be approved by the city council on Monday.
"We're still encouraging people to reach out to their elected officials," Devine says. "But ... it's an uphill battle."
After September 26, owning a dog who looks like a pit bull will get complicated.
Current owners will have until next March to get a special permit for their dogs — and that's only after a criminal background check. The dog will also have to be sterilized, vaccinated and microchipped. Owners would also have to keep their dogs muzzled and on a leash no longer than 4 feet in public.
And, of course, there's a $150 fee.
"There are a lot of low-income and homeless people in Montreal who simply won't be able to afford all of the criteria they need in order to get the special permit," Devine says. "Those dogs will have to be seized and have to be euthanized."
And dogs who are already in shelters?
"For dogs that don't have an 'owner' on the day of the passing of the legislation, the way the legislation is drafted, the dogs have to be euthanized," Devine says.
The Montreal SPCA takes about 2,000 dogs into its shelters every year. Among them, she says, about a third, or 700, would fit the city's criteria to be put down.
"Based on the way legislation is drafted, they can't be adopted," Devine notes.
Many animal lovers have already seen the writing on the wall. In the days leading up to this month's crucial vote, some pit bull-type dogs have been transported to rescues outside Quebec, to places that don't enforce a breed-specific ban — like Alberta and Saskatchewan.
ONE LAST CHANCE RESCUE
In addition, animal lovers have found allies in celebrities like Pamela Anderson, who visited shelter dogs in Montreal last month, and groups like the American Bar Association, which sent a letter to Montreal mayor Denis Coderre condemning the ban.
"We're talking about an association that represents 400,000 lawyers, judges and law students," Devine says. "For them to step in and directly send a message is pretty powerful.
"They don't have an interest per se in animal welfare, but they have an interest in justice and fair and nondiscriminatory legislation."
The Montreal SPCA, which runs shelters and animal services for the city in 12 boroughs, has also threatened to cancel its contract with the city if the ban is passed. Being forced to euthanize perfectly adoptable dogs based on a label doesn't sit well with an organization founded on the humane treatment of animals and public education.
"It goes against the fundamental principles our organization is based on," Devine says.
But Montreal is likely just the first in a legislative domino sequence. Provincial leaders are also mulling a ban on pit bull-type dogs.
"The provincial legislation, we're not sure what it includes, but my sense, based on what we've heard, is there is some component of breed-specific legislation that may or may not be specific to pit bull-type dogs," Devine explains.
"That should be coming down the pipe this week or next," she added. "But my sense is they're going to wait to see what happens in Montreal before announcing."
That's why it's so crucial that everyone who loves animals make their voices heard over this issue. Even if you don't live in the city, there's a lot you can do.
Sign the petition here.
Click here for a complete list of city officials you can email with your thoughts on the ban.