A citizen addressed herself to our office in order for a municipal by-law to be passed for the entire Ville de Montréal territory or, in the very least, in Arrondissement de Villeray – Saint-Michel – Parc-Extension where she resides, to prohibit all Pitbull dogs. The citizen was also submitting that, failing such a by-law, all Pitbull dogs should be required to wear a muzzle.

This citizen’s dog had recently died following injuries due to a Pitbull attack. She considered that this race of dogs presents a serious threat to public safety and should, therefore, be banned from our streets.

According to provincial laws, animal control falls under the jurisdiction of each borough: it is up to each borough, therefore, to decide whether or not it wants to prohibit one or more dogs breeds, on its territory, and these rules can vary from one borough to the other. In Montréal, some boroughs do prohibit Pitbulls, on their territory, but not all of them. The Ombudsman de Montréal launched a thorough investigation to evaluate if it would be appropriate to Recommend such a stricter by-law, in regards to this issue.

First, we found out that the Ordre des médecins vétérinaires du Québec and the Faculté de médecine vétérinaire of Université de Montréal are refusing to commit to an opinion on the danger that this breed of dogs really represents.

We then moved on to evaluate the statistics of the previous five years in regards to dog attacks on the Arrondissement de Villeray – Saint-Michel – Parc-Extension territory: the number of attacks by Pitbulls was not significant if compared with the number of attacks by other breeds, during the said time frame.

Moreover, Ville de Montréal had formed a special committee to study the question of Pitbulls, in 2006. Most boroughs participated and experts in animal behavior came to share their opinion on the matter. There was no consensus, however, in regards to the necessity to prohibit Pitbulls in order to ensure the safety of the public. According to the experts that were heard, it would be more a question of how masters treat their dog that influences a dog’s behavior rather than the dog breed itself. They also underlined the fact that some Pitbulls can be docile while dogs of other breeds can be dangerous.

In light of all of the above, Arrondissement de Villeray – Saint-Michel – Parc-Extension decided not to systematically prohibit Pitbulls on its territory and we could not find this decision to be unreasonable, unjust or arbitrary.

As for the idea of requiring that all Pitbulls be required to wear a muzzle, the opinions mentioned hereinabove tend to show that dogs of all breeds could possibly have a reprehensible behavior, at one time or another: it would be difficult, therefore, to justify such an obligation, in regards to Pitbulls only.

In spite of all of our sympathy for the difficult situation the citizen had lived through, we had to take into account the neutral information we had gathered and, as a result, we did not intervene as she would have hoped. However, we remain open to reconsider our conclusions, if new studies should demonstrate, in a preponderant manner, a specific and general danger in Pitbulls.

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