In Montreal tonight, Canada’s second largest city will vote on whether to proceed with a proposed ban on pit bulls. The entire province of Quebec has announced they will be pursuing similar measures. Advocates in Quebec will be protesting, and are circulating petitions:
Breed bans are ineffective, inhumane, and they are plain old bad policy. Based on our experience with the Province of Ontario, here’s what we see, and foresee, happening:
As talks of legislation escalate, people start to worry. If someone was already on the fence about keeping their pit bull type dog, this will push them to make a decision, and shelters will start seeing more of them. At the same time adoptions will decrease because even in this window of time where the dog might be legal, most adoptive families aren’t going to sign up for a host of restrictions on their family dog for the next 10-15 years. An increase in abandonments was noted a few months ago in Quebec (due to a number of factors but it’s reasonable to assume that the proposed legislation was among them). We have also been contacted by a number of shelters directly looking for options for the dogs in their care.
The legislation allows irrational fears to take seed and grow. Pit bull owners have been experiencing verbal abuse and much worse, including attempts on their dogs’ lives. Businesses and landlords have started to restrict opportunities for families with blocky-headed dogs because of fear or concern for liability.
Many shelters and animal control departments will begin euthanizing blocky-headed dogs. They may do so because they don’t have the resources for re-homing, or because someone in management is on board with the legislation and wishes to see it to its natural conclusion. Now, keep in mind that most dogs in our communities are mixed breed, and the ability of even trained professionals to identify breed visually is abysmal. This has been shown in academic studies, and in the many cases brought before the courts in Ontario. So inevitably, pit bull breeds will be euthanized – but so will mastiff crosses, boxer crosses, lab crosses, and many others. If a dog is reported as a suspected pit bull at any point, or if an official declares that it’s coat is short enough and head is wide enough to fit the description of the breed, it’s a death sentence.
Some shelters and groups will find ways to send dogs out of the Province. This has been able to happen in Ontario thanks to partnerships across Canada. We participate in this system out of compassion for the dogs, but it not a solution:
- The resources involved in cross-border adoptions are immense. With restrictions in the home province and with many airlines, it is expensive and logistically difficult to ship a dog out. If the province of Quebec adopts legislation similar to Ontario, this means that a good chunk of the country will be off-limits for dogs to travel through.
- Cross-border adoptions rely on the non-enforcement or civil disobedience on behalf of the rescue and foster home. Because of the logistics involved, these dogs are often in foster care for months. Some parts of Ontario, like Ottawa, have openly stated that they don’t enforce the breed bans, so a foster home may feel safer there. For now. Others simply take chances for the sake of the dog, risking their own safety and well-being since the law allows police officers to enter your home and seize your dog if a suspected pit bull lives there.
Only the very best dogs get saved. Because of all the factors above, the rescues participating in this “underground railroad” can’t afford to take dogs with behaviour problems. A reactive or noisy dog will attract attention of neighbours. A dog that needs training or boarding will probably not be serviced by local businesses. Think about the dogs in your life and how many of them are perfect, or were perfect at the time they were placed in your home. Not many, right? Imagine them as a pit bull in Montreal in a few months, and they will die because of their poor leash manners or separation anxiety.
- Rescues in the receiving province need to commit to a dog sight-unseen. When we commit to an Ontario dog, we are providing them a spot and allocating donation dollars that could be given – and could probably do more for – a BC dog. This is a constant ethical battle for us, because in some cases both dogs face death if we can’t take them.
Ten years after the breed ban in Ontario, there is no shortage of “pit bull” breeds there. We are contacted regularly by shelters and the rescues working in Ontario who are caring for dogs that need out. We are currently supporting the efforts of Bullies In Need to free the Chatham 21 dogs who have been impounded in concrete kennels, at the cost of the taxpayer, for nearly a year.
Our foster program is full now, and we are just barely breaking even on vet bills. The other reputable bully breed rescues in BC are in a similar position. Once the Quebec legislation passes, we will help if we can, but at most we are talking about a handful of dogs over the next year. The will is there to help, but the resources simply won’t be.
The legislation is a crime, and it will absolutely result in the death of dogs and puppies. Please speak up against it now, while there is a sliver of a chance that it can be reconsidered. Sign and share the petitions, stay informed about what is going on, and mobilize anyone you might know in the Province of Quebec. Write to government officials and to tourism organizations.
If this legislation passes, we will be working with other advocacy groups to step up the boycott campaign, and to invest in a legal defense fund. Please stay tuned and be ready to provide your support. While the US is moving towards mandatory breed-neutral legislation in almost half of its states, Canada is moving backwards. We will need every voice and we can’t afford to be complacent.
If you would like to donate to anti-BSL efforts, use our donation page and indicate that you would like your donation directed this way.